Y Pwyllgor Biliau Diwygio

Reform Bill Committee

18/04/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Darren Millar
David Rees Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Heledd Fychan
Sarah Murphy

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dr Larissa Peixoto Vale Gomes Prifysgol Caeredin
University of Edinburgh
Geraint Day Dirprwy Brif Weithredwr, Plaid Cymru
Deputy Chief Executive, Plaid Cymru
Hannah Stevens Prif Weithredwr, Elect Her
Chief Executive, Elect Her
Jane Dodds Aelod o’r Senedd dros Ganolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru
Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales
Jemima Olchawski Prif Weithredwr, Cymdeithas Fawcett
Chief Executive, Fawcett Society
Joanna McIntyre Llafur Cymru
General Secretary, Welsh Labour
Yr Athro Laura McAllister Cadeirydd y Panel Arbenigol ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Cynulliad
Chair of the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform
Yr Athro Meryl Kenny Prifysgol Caeredin
University of Edinburgh
Yr Athro Mona Lena Krook Prifysgol Rutgers
Rutgers University
Yr Athro Rosie Campbell Aelod o'r Panel Arbenigol ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Cynulliad
Member of the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform
Yr Athro Sarah Childs Aelod o'r Panel Arbenigol ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Cynulliad
Member of the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform
Tom James Cyfarwyddwr, Ceidwadwyr Cymreig
Director, Welsh Conservatives

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Roberts Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Claire Thomas Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Gareth Howells Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Georgina Owen Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Helen Finlayson Clerc
Clerk
Josh Hayman Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:20.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:20.

1. Cyflwyniadau, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good morning. Can I welcome Members and the public to this morning's meeting of the Reform Bill Committee, where we will consider further evidence in relation to the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill? Prior to that, let's go through some housekeeping. Can I remind Members that, if you have mobile phones or other electronic devices, please put them on silent so that they do not interfere with the broadcast or the session this morning? The session is bilingual; we operate a bilingual system in the Senedd, and therefore simultaneous translation is available from Welsh to English. For those who are virtual, you have the translation available via Zoom. There is no scheduled fire alarm for those of us in the Senedd this morning, so if one does take place, please follow the direction of the ushers to a safe location. I also want to highlight that, this morning, we will have a panel that political parties will be attending. And, as members of political parties, we therefore declare an interest that we will probably know and represent one of those parties, with the exception of the Liberal Democrats, who will not be in attendance this morning. So, are there any other declarations of interest you'd like to make? Heledd. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. O ran panel pleidiau Senedd Cymru, mi ydw i'n briod efo Geraint Day. Felly, dim ond eisiau nodi hynny.

Thank you, Chair. In terms of the panel of Senedd political parties, I am married to Geraint Day. I just wanted to put that on the record.

Thank you. And finally, before we start, you'll remember that the meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv. A transcript will also be available and published in the normal manner. 

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

So, let's go into our business. Under item 2, there are papers to note. The first is the letter from the Finance Committee to the Commission regarding the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill. The second is a letter from the Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip to the Reform Bill Committee regarding the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill, following our session with the Minister. And I think I need to put on record at the moment that the Minister in charge at that time remains the Minister in charge under the new administration. The third is a letter to the Llywydd from us regarding the Bill. Are Members content to note those three items? You are. Thank you very much.

3. Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r Panel Arbenigol ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Cynulliad
3. Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill: Evidence session with the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform

We will now go into item 3, our first evidence session this morning, and that is with members of the expert panel on Assembly electoral reform that took place. Can I welcome Professor Laura McAllister, who was chair of the panel; Professor Rosie Campbell, who was a member; and Professor Sarah Childs, who was a member of that panel? Thank you for attending this morning. We'll go straight into questions, if it's okay with you.

An easy one first, to start with, is: considering the work you did on reform, do you believe this Bill delivers the diversity in the Senedd that you had hoped would occur with reform? I'm going to go through the order in which I can see you on my screen, and the order in which I see you on my screen is: Laura, Sarah and Rosie. Okay?

Bore da, bawb. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. Yes, I think we'd like to focus on our thinking during the process of the expert panel report writing, which was quite a tight period. We worked for just one year on this project, and fundamentally we were asked to do three things, as you know. I don't want to waste time going through what those were because I think you know that we were asked to look at the size, the electoral system and also whether the franchise should be extended to include younger people. Clearly, your area of interest is the electoral system and particularly the recommendation that we made as an expert panel around using the electoral system changes to promote greater permanent and protected diversity within the representation of Assembly Members, as was then, and now Members of the Senedd.

What I will say, and I'm sure that Sarah and Rosie will agree with this, is that we felt that it was absolutely critical to, first of all, test electoral systems against the diversity principle. We had 10 principles, but diversity was a very important one that we integrated in all of our evaluations. And secondly, to ensure that there was a legislative protection for any interventions, such as quotas, to ensure that they were not voluntary in any way and not just permissive, but actually prescriptive and legislatively protected. And so, our recommendations, as set out in the report, worked within that framework.

Taking that on to the question, Cadeirydd, we feel that the intentions—well, I feel, certainly; I shouldn’t talk for my colleagues. I feel that the intentions of this Bill are honourable ones and that they chime—there is a definite synergy with the thinking that we had during our expert panel process. I mean, clearly, there are some differences and this piece of legislation goes in a slightly different direction to the one that we’d promoted. But nevertheless, I think in terms of purpose, goal objective, then, there is a very clear commitment to sustaining some of the already impressive levels of gender representation that we have, but making it more secure and more permanent.

09:25

Yes, thank you, and, again, I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak today. And I too think that it's really critical, as the Welsh Parliament considers increasing its size and changing its electoral system, that gender quota are integrated and I think that's absolutely fundamental, and in that sense this Bill would deliver, or should deliver, greater diversity, because it is both an integrated quota system, but also comes with penalties and governance associated with that, so, yes. Thank you.

Yes, I would like to echo what my colleagues have said, and I think that, as we recommended, the implementation of a gender quota is a really important step towards securing the incredible diversity, relative to other countries, that the Welsh Senedd has achieved, but there is some diversion from our original recommendation.

Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn a diolch am ddod y bore yma hefyd. Mae'n amlwg mai'r system rydyn ni'n mynd i'w chael fydd y system rhestr gaeedig. Felly, roeddwn i jest eisiau gofyn i chi i gyd beth yw eich barn ar sut mae'r cwotâu rhywedd am weithio yn y system fydd gennym ni, fel rhestr gaeedig. Oes gennych chi farn ar sut mae o am weithio? Diolch yn fawr iawn. A gwnaf wneud yr un fath â'r Cadeirydd: Laura yn gyntaf, diolch.

Okay. Thank you very much and thank you for joining us this morning too. It is evident that the system that will be introduced is the closed list system. So, I just wanted to ask you all what your opinion is on how the gender quotas will work within the system that we will have, the closed list system. Do you have a view on how it would work? Thank you very much. And I will do the same as the Chair: Laura first, please.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Jane. Well, I think you know my position on the closed lists choice, because I've already come along to your committee previously and have outlined my reservations around that system, particularly in terms of the reduction in the relationship between voter and politician—elected politician—but also because of the jeopardy of giving too much power to the political parties in terms of how they structure their candidate choices.

That does have implications, of course, for this debate around quotas. But if you strip away some of the more judgmental analysis of closed lists, I think it's fair to say that a gender quota can work just as well in a closed list system as in an open list system. So, if we're discussing the mechanics of the operation of quotas, then there's nothing in the closed list system that prohibits the kind of goals that we referred to in our expert panel report. So, notwithstanding the points that you already have on record from me about my misgivings around a closed list, in this specific instant around quotas, there's no reason to suggest that the proposed system can't work as well as it could within an open list. 

But one small point as well before colleagues give their interpretation: when we were looking at the choice of electoral systems, we ruled out closed lists very early on when set against the 10 principles, of which diversity is one. I think it's fair to say that the closed list system would have been acceptable on a diversity principle, but failed the tests of lots of the other principles that we assessed the project on—so, voter choice, accountability, simplicity and so on. So, I'm trying to kind of separate out a judgment on closed list versus the practicality of operating quotas within closed lists.

09:30

Wedyn Sarah. Oes gennych chi farn wahanol neu—?

Sarah next, please. Do you have a different view?

Well, no, I don't. I think closed systems, once that decision's been made, can be very effective in the delivery of more diverse outcomes. Of course, it still relies on political parties and their compliance. It also is subject to voters as well, but I think it gives a very good means by which we can see, with a quota, a greater diversity in the Welsh Parliament.

Rosie, oes gennych chi farn wahanol?

And Rosie, do you have a different view?

I have the same view, and I also echo the risks, and I think there can be a little interaction potentially with the risk, in that if those are choices being seen to be taken away, those who are resistant to gender quotas might—[Inaudible.]

It looks like we've frozen. We might want to come back to Rosie if the technology eases up and unfreezes her.

Chair, could I jump in there? I hate to suggest that I know what Rosie was going to say, but I think Sarah and I do know, which is that the point is that if there's opposition to the electoral system in itself—for example, in this case, closed lists—then despite two separate Bills making their passage through the Senedd at the moment, those who oppose closed lists might well use the gender quotas as another stick to beat the reform agenda with, and I think that has been the case in other systems where there have been changes to electoral systems at the same time as introducing quotas. So, I think that's what Rosie was going to say. Sarah, do you agree? Because we've talked about this before, haven't we?

Thank you for that. As you're aware, and as you have said, there are two Bills in this case, so the closed lists is one Bill and the gender quotas is a separate Bill, so, in one sense, while they might object to one, it might not have an influence on the other. Okay, thank you. Sarah Murphy.

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you all for being here this morning. I'm going to ask some more questions now specifically about the Bill's provisions.

So, just to start, following on from what you've already said, really: can you outline whether you believe the provisions in the Bill are likely to achieve the Welsh Government's stated aim of electing a gender-balanced Senedd?

Shall I go first again, Sarah?

Yes, I think the most important part of the provisions that will, not guarantee, because I don't think you can ever guarantee, but will facilitate the balance of the sexes in the Senedd will be the fact that the Bill proposes horizontal and vertical interventions. We know from all of the research that imposing just one of those without the other produces greater risk or likelihood of the objectives of gender balance not being met. So, I think, from our point of view as an expert panel, we think the mechanics of ensuring, first of all, that the quotas are prescriptive and legislatively protected; secondly, that there are sanctions and penalties attached to them—and I'm sure we'll come onto that later, but that's important; and No. 3, that they are both horizontal and vertical. If those three things come together, then the chances of success in terms of the objectives are greater, Sarah, yes?

Absolutely. I think I would just add to that that it's also worth thinking that whilst quotas are what we would call in the literature that we work in a 'demand-side intervention', they can and have been shown to increase the supply. So, given what we know about the number of men and women candidates at the last elections, what this quota will also do, given the evidence that we have in other places, not least in Ireland, is that we're likely to see an increase in the supply of women coming forward. So, a quota is not just about moving and enabling women who are already in the supply pool to participate, but actually to expand, diversify and transform that supply pool. So, I think the attributes of this system that Laura has outlined also have this potential to really be a moment when new people think that the Parliament is a place for them, and I think that should also be part of the consideration of whether this system, this mechanism, will deliver.

09:35

Could I add, Chair, one other point to that? I think it's really important to look at the contemporary environment for candidates as well, which is different to when we were working on our report in 2017. I think we all acknowledge that it's going to be much more difficult to recruit candidates for elections in the future, other than those who are already within the system, if you like. We know that the system at the moment is predicated on having more men throughout the pipeline. Even at the last Senedd election, I think there was a 70:30 balance in terms of female and male candidates in favour of male candidates. So, the actual election is a positive increase from the candidate representation balance. But I think, given what we know about the number of women who are standing down from the Westminster Parliament in the forthcoming general election at a UK level, we can anticipate that it's going to be more difficult to recruit female candidates. So, the winnability incentive of quotas is a really important mechanism to increase the candidate base as well.

You've talked about the supply, Sarah, in particular. Does the time factor we have before the 2026 elections give enough time to parties to actually enhance that supply factor in time for the election? Because parties, obviously, will be required to deliver on this quota, and, as you just highlighted, there's a question of encouraging a wider supply. Do we have enough time for parties to actually deliver in 2026, to enhance and expand the supply?

Well, I think there are two things there. I think what we have seen in the Westminster Parliament is that, where parties are very clear about demanding, as in making statements that they want to change the kind of people that put themselves forward, actually, there are women around, active in the parties, but they may not have previously been considered as potential candidates. So, I think it's about an active process of recruitment rather than passively waiting for women to put themselves forward. I think often there are women in parties who are ready and have the skills, but haven't previously been identified. So, I think parties need to put effort and resources behind that, absolutely, but I'd find it strange if we didn't have enough women to create a much more balanced Parliament, whether that's in Wales, Westminster, Scotland or Northern Ireland. 

I think, as well, Chair, there's been a historic knowledge that selectorates within parties have tended to bias male candidates, and for some women within parties that's been offputting in terms of putting themselves forward in the first instance. So, if we make the connection between this Bill and the provisions of this Bill around ensuring the 50 per cent of the candidates and the hierarchy and so on, then you would imagine that would be an incentive to women who are maybe considering being an election candidate, but feel that there would be difficulties with them actually proceeding through the process. So, I think that might be an uplift to the numbers as well who actually put themselves forward in the first instance. That's a bit speculative, I accept that, but it seems to be leading that way, certainly.

Yes, I just wanted to follow up on those two points. Obviously, we do have evidence that the harassment, intimidation and abuse of candidates is rising and that certain kinds are higher that women are more likely to receive, particularly women of colour. So, we know that. There's evidence supporting that context that Laura's describing. There's also research showing that with equally qualified candidates, men and women, if women are asked, actively asked, they're more likely—. That asking has a more profound effect on women than men. So, it's exactly as Sarah said: it's not that women aren't there, it's that there needs to be a conversation had with them to say, 'You are a really strong candidate for this role.'

09:40

Thank you very much. We've already touched on this a bit, but obviously the expert panel concluded that if the Senedd adopted a proportional list system, then it should ensure that 50 per cent of candidates in each constituency are female and 50 per cent male, with lists zipped, so alternating men and women. But you also had a look at the different types of gender quotas that are used in other countries. So, could you provide us with any examples of where this has been implemented and the outcomes from that?

I think it makes more sense to think about what is the nature of the electoral system and what is the best quota design for the electoral system, because I think you have to make sure that a quota system is well designed. So, of course, you can have reserved seats—that's not a common version of a quota for Europe. You can have, as we've had in the UK, all-women shortlists; you can twin constituencies—[Inaudible.]—obviously, we've had. So, there are different systems, but it's about ensuring that it matches the actual electoral system and comes with incentives and, particularly, penalties. So, I think, for me, that's more important than choosing off the shelf which kind of quota; they can work in different ways and have different effects. Some of the concerns around reserved seats, for example, are that you are not having a similar mode of election for those members of a parliament, and therefore you're creating different categories, and so that's not something that is usually advocated for in our context.

And I think it's fair to say that the candidate quota approach works well with PR systems particularly, and when we analysed this as part of our expert panel, obviously, we were looking at the existing system—the mixed Member proportional additional member system—which was our least favourite option, but we said it could be made to work. And then we worked through a spectrum of options, including the open lists PR system, which, of course, is similar to the one that the other Bill is considering, except that it's a closed list. And then, obviously, our favoured electoral system was single transferrable vote, which we felt worked best with the kinds of quotas that we were proposing. But we set forward the three options because, obviously, the decision had to be made about the electoral system first before there was a decision made about quotas.

Thank you very much. Can you outline any alternative methods of improving the representation of women that we should consider as well as or instead of the Bill's provisions? You've touched on a few already about, maybe, that culture change as well.

I would just like to add that, globally, the international literature shows a strong association between having proportional representation and zipping and higher representation of women. There are different patterns in the data, but that's the overall finding. And so, yes, there are other things we can do in the absence of quotas, but they're not going to be as effective in the time period.

And I would add to that—sorry, Sarah, I don't know if you were coming in—that I don't think any of this has to be an either/or. I think there are lots of interventions that could be happening around encouraging women to stand and invest in time and energy in encouraging women that this a route for them. Because we know the statistics about professional choice, where women wait until they're 100 per cent sure of being able to do a role—we all know that; let's not go there—so we do need to nurture women in a slightly different way for political office. But also that doesn't rule out some of the other things that are already going on, but perhaps could perhaps be given an uplift in terms of mentoring and connectivity between elected women and women who are standing as candidates, ensuring that the structures of the Senedd—that's an issue for the Senedd Commission, I know, and for the remuneration board, but— ensuring that the apparatus of being a Member of the Senedd is appropriate for both sexes, not just for one. I think that's really fundamental, that those things continue alongside any quota intervention too.

Could I just add to that? I think both of my colleagues are right. I think the consideration should be a quota-plus strategy. One needs the quotas and then the plus, the other aspects, which, of course, are around supply. But I think it is also about parliaments, and the global movement to gender-sensitive parliament audits I think is really fundamental to this as well. But it's part of that quota-plus strategy. The concern for us today is about quotas. The global evidence is really clear on this, and therefore I think it really isn't a zero-sum game; it's quotas and other measures to ensure that women are both recruited but also retained once they're there. Rosie and Laura have already talked about the conditions under which that recruitment is happening, but also concerns around retention. So, this is one part of the puzzle. There's no single bullet for increasing diversity in Parliaments, but it's definitely a quota-plus strategy, not something or quotas.

09:45

That's very helpful. Thank you very much. My last question under my section is: can you outline the extent to which the panel considered whether the legislative gender quotas would be within legislative competence of the Senedd?

Shall I start with that? That's a really good question, because obviously we're very aware that this is a contested area in terms of the Bill and the conflicting legal advice that's come from the Llywydd on the one hand and her office and then from Welsh Government on the other. I think we have to be really honest and say that we were working in a very different political and legislative context in 2017. We were right on the cusp of the Wales Act 2017 coming into force, which of course gave competence over the electoral system to the Senedd, and that's what permitted our work to proceed in the way that it did. But we appreciate too that there are different interpretations as to the purpose of this Bill, and I've read some of the evidence that's been submitted to you now. Not one of us is a lawyer, so we won't go down that route, because that would be inappropriate, but I think we made the point quite clearly in our report that it would be anomalous if matters of electoral arrangements weren't within the gift of the Senedd under the competence set out in the 2017 Act, because, clearly, quotas are a fundamental part of an electoral system. And if the purpose of this Bill, as the sponsoring Minister has indicated, is to improve the effectiveness of the Senedd through enhancing diversity and then utilising the electoral system as the mechanism for that, then one would hope that this would fit within competence. But I think it would be wrong of any one of us, as three expert panel members who are political scientists, to comment too much about the legality point.

Yes, can I just go back to the quota system that's proposed? I heard what you all said in terms of the desirability of the zipping and of the horizontal zipping, as it were—vertical and horizontal. This Bill of course does not just allow for zipping, it actually allows for all-women candidate lists, or for lists where women can follow one another, or people who self-identify as women can follow one another on a list before there's someone who identifies themselves as not being a woman. Obviously, that could potentially lead to a situation where the gender balance in the Senedd might tip significantly in the opposite direction. I think we'd all agree that that might be unlikely, but theoretically of course it is possible, particularly as more women come forward as candidates. What consideration have you given to that and the potential adverse impact on the gender balance in the Senedd, given that you can have more women following at the top of a list than, potentially, men? It's not going to be necessarily 50:50.

Well, my colleagues are much more expert than me on this, so I'm sure they'll have more to say, but can I just make the point that that does relate to the closed list system as well, where most of the power for candidate selection rests with the political parties? Now, what that means, I think, in terms of the point that Darren is making, is that parties, if they're sensible, make strategic choices about the overall profile of their candidates for that legislature. I think it would be, as you rightly suggested, Darren, odd if parties chose to have completely unbalanced lists, because that might punish them in terms of voter acceptance. But that's not to say that we shouldn't have the conversation over whether that is an appropriate mechanism, or whether there should be some constraints put on the issue. But I think Rosie and Sarah will probably have a bit more to say on that than I will.

09:50

I concur. I think, as you said yourself, it's unlikely, but, of course, it's something that we would absolutely want to avoid. It's not something that we've witnessed happening elsewhere in the world, but if there were scope to ensure that that wouldn't happen, I think that would be an improvement. As you've all said, I think it's very unlikely that that's going to happen in the medium term, but, absolutely, the point of this is about creating an equal and level playing field, not creating a disadvantage for any men, as opposed to women.

So, just on the basis of that, you would rather see a requirement that was for absolute zipping. That was what you recommended in the report, of course—your own report. 

As Laura mentioned, the environment, the context, the issues that are most salient publicly have changed, and discussions of the differences between gender and sex have become more politically salient. I think that the solution that's proposed practically is one that is inclusive, and I think it's very unlikely that the outcome would be one that you describe where we end up with men under-represented—that would be a very unwelcome outcome. But I think, when we're thinking about practicalities, there are reasons that this has being designed the way it has, compared to our original recommendations. Is that fair, Sarah and Laura?

Yes, I would agree with that. I think it's most unlikely. I don't think parties would act in that way. And, of course, it could be that a party might choose to try to significantly rebalance at this election, because of a historical under-representation. So, I don't think a one-off election would be a test of whether this is necessarily operating to skew in the way you suggest, because there does need to be a redress, because the skewing has been to men historically, and particularly there will be party asymmetry. But I think the likelihood of it becoming a permanent feature would be problematic, for sure. We're looking for diversity and parity, and the language of parity is the language that is increasingly being used globally, whether that's with United Nations Women or other international scenarios. It's about women's full, equal, effective participation, and that's really what the quota should be delivering.

And if we're looking for parity, isn't it better to have a requirement for actual zipping, rather than this alternative requirement, which isn't complete zipping, is it, which could lead to that imbalance? Isn't it better to just say safeguard it and say, 'Right, you've got to have woman, man, woman, man, woman, man, or man, woman, man, woman, man, woman—do the vertical zipping and the horizontal zipping in that way, in order to avoid to sort of disparity that could potentially emerge in the future?' 

I think the problem with that, Darren, is that a lot of it will depend of electoral arithmetic as well, because, clearly, despite how the lists are constructed, the way in which voters decide to cast their vote for a party list will influence the overall proportion of men and women in the Senedd, especially in a Senedd of 96, where the proportionality will be increased. And there's also another issue, which is to do with how strategic a party might decide to use a one-off election, as I think Sarah said a moment ago, in order to redress a historical imbalance. And that could be either way, of course, of more women or of more men. And then, thirdly—sorry, before I forget—the smaller parties, of course—and we've seen this in Scotland, I think, haven't we, with the Greens—have less latitude in terms of how their party list might influence the number of MSPs in this case who get elected. So, I think we need to think about those three factors. But I fully agree with Rosie and Sarah—ideally, this has to be about parity and diversity. What we don't want to do is replace one imbalance of sex with another imbalance of sex, because I don't think the electorate would think kindly of us for creating that environment.

So, you could have slightly different arrangements for the first election under the system versus the second, for example if there was a historical imbalance that needed to be addressed by the larger political parties in the first one, couldn't you? That might be a way around it.

09:55

Yes. You make a good point, Darren, because, for me, any change in an electoral system per se—and that's the other Bill, I appreciate that—in relation to this Bill, too, any change of that magnitude should be subject to a really robust review after the first election, because there are always unintended consequences to electoral reviews, we all know that, and I think the nature of analysis should be really comprehensive and adopted from the position of different stakeholders. So, from the point of view of the political parties, critically, the point of view of the elected politicians and candidates, but also from the public and voters' points of view, because there may be elements of this system that are only flushed out through its operation and the outcome of the operation.

And just one final question, if I may, Chair. It is in relation to the provisions in the Bill. You asked a question earlier on about open and flexible lists, and I already know your views on that. But can I just ask, if there were to be no gender zipping requirements and people could vote for a candidate of their choice in a flexible or open list system, is there any indication that women candidates would be disadvantaged by that? So, if there were no zipping but there were equal numbers of women and men candidates on those lists, what's the international evidence on whether people prefer to vote for a man or a woman—the general public?

I can give an initial answer to this. The international evidence is that people tend to vote for the first person on the list.

But there has been some evidence from Finland, where there's been an element of choice, where women have been slightly more likely to vote for women and men slightly more likely to vote for men, but that was very much secondary. The first thing is party. And thankfully, the electorate has really changed over the last 50, 60 years. Women candidates are not punished by voters, but neither are they particularly sought out by voters, so that's why the position on the list really matters. 

I see. So, it's more about position on the list. So, we all need to change our names to something beginning with 'A'. 

Taxi companies know what they're doing.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi'n mynd i gynnwys dau bwynt yn y cwestiwn cyntaf, os yw hynny'n iawn. Rydych chi wedi sôn am sancsiynau a chymhellion yn gynt, ac mae'r rheini'n bwysig, onid ydynt? Rydych chi wedi dweud hynny. Gaf i jest ofyn i chi, yn gyffredinol, beth ydy'ch barn chi am y darpariaethau yn y Bil ac os ydyn nhw am fod yn effeithiol? Hefyd, yn ail, oes gennych chi farn ar beth mae hynny am olygu i'r pleidiau, hefyd? Ydych chi'n eu gweld nhw'n bod yn effeithiol efo'r pleidiau? Diolch yn fawr iawn. Fe wnaf i gymryd Rosie yn gyntaf, os gwelwch yn dda.

Thank you very much. I'd like to include two points in the first question, if that's okay. You mentioned sanctions and incentives earlier. Those are important, aren't they? You said that. But could I just ask you, in general terms, what are your views on the provisions in the Bill and whether they're going to be effective? Secondly, do you have an opinion on what that would mean for the political parties? Do you think they will be effective with the parties? Thank you. I will go to Rosie first, if that's okay.

I'm so sorry—because I got kicked out and came in again, I've received that in Welsh. I'm really sorry. 

Don't worry. I'll quickly, because I think we're pressed for time. I had two points there, looking at sanctions and incentives, and what your views are on whether they're going to be effective in achieving the aims of the Bill, and also whether you feel they're going to be effective, how they're going to be applied to the political parties, whether that will work. But don't worry—I'll perhaps take Laura first, and that gives you a chance to think about it. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Laura.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Jane. Yes, this is a really important element of the Bill, and relates to some of the thinking that we had back in our expert panel report, because I think you have to have codified sanctions, clearly, to ensure compliance, but you would hope that there would also be incentives in the process leading up to the introduction of the change as well, so that parties embrace the change that's ahead of them. But in terms of compliance, in our system it's quite right that the compliance comes in the form of rejecting party lists should they not be compliant with the vertical and wider horizontal zipping, because, in other systems, most of the compliance constraints can be based on financial penalties and so on for the parties. But, because we don't have the same system, for example, of centralised funding that, say, the Republic of Ireland has, it would be problematic, I think, for us to go down a financial penalties route.

My only concern over this is it's putting another additional onus of quite a substantial size on constituency returning officers, and I don't know if you've received evidence from them, and, if you haven't, I'm sure you will do. But it's obviously very important that they feel that their returning officer role is not compromised by having such an additional load placed on them.

And the only other point I would make about that, really, is in terms of the evidence that I know you've received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission with regard to self-ID and terminology, because, again, I think that is putting constituency returning officers in a potentially invidious position. And I think that's the last thing we should do, because their role is as a guardian of the process of approving candidate lists, in this case, and I think we need to treat that with great respect and great care.

10:00

Diolch. Thank you. I will ask a question specifically about that, but thank you. Diolch. Sarah, do you want to go next? 

Yes. I think what I like about the provision is that there is the possibility of a candidate list being revised and then treated as in compliance, and I think that is an important stage, particularly as the quota becomes embedded and people are learning about the quota and what the effects are. So, I thought that was an important point to stress, really.  

I think you'd have a good system, potentially, compared to, for example, financial sanctions, which we know, when the parity legislation was first brought into place in France, parties, some of them, just absorbed the financial sanction, whereas with this, you know, your list will not be approved.

Thank you, and I will ask the question—I'll do it in English. Just touching on what Laura said at the end of her contribution there about the Bill requirement for them to state whether they're a woman or not a woman. Could you just outline your views on what would be required in the Bill, what you think is in the Bill currently around that situation, about whether a candidate states that they're a woman or not a woman? Laura, you touched on that, but I don't know if you want to add anything.

Just very briefly, because I'm sure Rosie and Sarah will have their views. For me, this is about ensuring that the Bill is within competence because we can spend a lot of time, as you are as a committee, forensically analysing the detail of the Bill and then find that, obviously, there's a legal challenge to its competence. For me, I think we do have to be very careful and listen very carefully to the advice that's been received by the Equality and Human Rights Commission with regard to terminology in this case, because, as we know, sex is the relevant protected characteristic here. 

Sarah, Rosie and I were talking about this. The problem we have, of course, is that gender has become the language that we've used when we've talked about quotas in the past, and it's used extensively in our expert panel report, but the debate on gender and sex has moved on considerably in the past seven years—nobody needs to be told that. All I would say is we do need to be very, very careful that we give this Bill every chance of being within competence by using the terminology that is fundamentally legally acceptable to organisations that police the Equality Act. I think that's absolutely fundamental. 

Diolch. I don't know, Sarah and Rosie, if you've got anything to add on that. No. Right. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd.  

Okay, thank you. Before we move on, just because Rosie had a problem technically, can we just recheck the translation for Rosie? Did you hear that, Rosie?

Yes, that's okay. You heard it. We move on to a question from Darren. 

Thank you. Obviously, gender quotas are one way to address the imbalance in terms of the gender in a Parliament, but what other barriers and action might be taken in order to address the gender imbalance? And particularly, what support could be offered to political parties, do you think, in order to help them overcome the obstacles and challenges of trying to encourage greater diversity amongst candidates, particularly in terms of trying to get women to come forward?

10:05

I think one of the issues is unfortunately the deteriorating environment online and then how that spills into the offline world. I think we all need to think—political parties and more broadly—about how we support candidates, their safety, and their sense of safety. I think that's really important. I don't have the answers, because it's—[Inaudible.]

Well, I think she said she didn't have the answers. Perhaps if anybody else has some, I'll be happy to listen. 

There's increasing work being done on violence against women in politics—gender and political violence—and I think there are some strategies out there. There's some work that I'm very happy to send forward from colleagues, not least Sofia Collignon at Queen Mary, who's very expert in this area in terms of what parliamentarians and prospective candidates can do, but also what institutions can do to address that.

I think I have to restate that it's a quota-plus strategy—just to really impress upon you that I don't think it's an either/or. But I would also really look to political parties perhaps themselves that are undergoing a sort of reflective, gender-sensitive audit. I think parliaments should be doing that, and that's obviously happened at Westminster and in Holyrood, and it's happening increasingly around the world. There are lots of organisations, whether that's the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. So, we're not lacking for what needs to be done or how to do this, but I think political will is necessary at the top of political parties. I think that's true of institutions—they also need to show leadership in this respect. And of course, I know that there's work being done in the Welsh Parliament on this.

It is a package of interventions for parties and institutions, but the electoral system and the way political parties interact with the electoral system clearly has a significant gatekeeping role, and that really needs to be addressed. I think parties have not yet really looked in on themselves sufficiently and transformed themselves into places that women feel are comfortable and open to women and other members of historically under-represented groups. There is a lot of work to be done, but this moment, as Wales is thinking about how to transform its Parliament, is the moment to really take seriously structural change to really affect under-representation. It will be transformative in respect of the sustainable development goals. This should not be a wasted opportunity, in my opinion.

In terms of trying to recruit, I know my own party, for example, works very hard to try and encourage women candidates to take an interest in politics, to come forward, and to apply to be candidates in different seats, but we've only had limited success. I think my own view would be that it's difficult to reach the women that we want to reach sometimes. We make a great deal of effort, not just on women, but other aspects of diversity too, and we've had some success with some things, and limited success with others. But that can be quite resource intensive as well for political parties. Do you think, outside of the Bill arrangements—? There are no provisions for any funding to be made available in the explanatory memorandum to support political parties with this work. Is that something that you would like to see made available, in order to make it easier for political parties to do that outreach work, which can be quite intensive, but obviously could make a huge difference in terms of the number of women coming forward?

Shall I have a go at that, Cadeirydd? The first thing to say, I think, is that parties are merely representative of wider society. I don't think we can expect parties to solve really deep structural issues here, and I think we should talk about the deep structural issues. We've got limited time here, but we know that economic factors stop women coming forward for elected office. Even just having enough money to fight an election campaign personally is an issue, never mind talking about caring responsibilities and the rest of it—the fact that women earn less, all of those issues.

I think it's important to air those, though, because when we talk about quotas, we often get criticised for presenting it as if it's the same type of women who will come through as men who are already there, and that's not the intent. We know that there is a lot of intersectionality that needs to be reflected through a quota approach on a sex basis, to ensure that it's not just middle-class women who are university educated, who are middle aged, who are white and so on, that we use it as a platform for ensuring that other women come through that system and, therefore, the diversity dividend is bigger. I think that's really very important.

I'm not sure about the funding point, Darren. I'd need to think more about that, because I'm not sure it's the Senedd's responsibility to try and address some of these huge structural issues with a small pot of money, and I'm not sure what the outcome would be. That's purely my opinion without any research at all on that, by the way.

And then, finally, can I just refer back to something that was also in our report, and we have a manifestation of it in Sarah and Rosie, which is job share? Sarah and Rosie job-shared the position on the expert panel and did it in exactly the same way as all good job shares are, which is they behaved as one, they were treated as one, they cost no more than one, all of the absolute basic principles of job share, and it worked extremely well. Going back to the quotas plus point, I think we really need to reinvigorate the debate about job share in the context of the previous Bill and this one. I know it's loosely connected to both of them but not explicitly relevant to either, in a sense, but it mustn't fall between them, because it's a real opportunity for us to change the type of candidates—by the way, male candidates as well as female candidates—who could be elected to the Senedd.

10:10

I appreciate that. I think the Welsh Government does have some funding that it made available to support disabled candidates, so the Welsh Government is already active in this area of trying to promote diversity by resourcing; I think that was more resourcing individual candidates rather than political parties. But it's interesting to hear your views and, obviously, if there is further evidence out there, I'd love to hear it.

Diolch yn fawr iawn a bore da ichi. Rydyn ni wedi canolbwyntio, yn amlwg, o ran y Bil hwn, o ran y cynrychiolaeth gytbwys ar sail rhywedd, ond yn y sgwrs jest rŵan, mi oedden ni'n symud ymlaen at un o'r pethau roeddech chi'n sôn amdano fel panel arbenigol hefyd, o ran ceisio sicrhau bod yr ymgeiswyr sy'n sefyll ledled Cymru yn gynrychioladol o'r cymunedau amrywiol maent yn eu gwasanaethu o ran yr holl nodweddion gwarchodedig, yn ogystal â bod yn gytbwys rhwng y rhywiau. Er bod hyn ddim yn y Bil penodol hwn, beth fyddwn i yn ei werthfawrogi yw os byddech chi'n gallu amlinellu unrhyw ystyriaeth gwnaethoch chi fel panel ei rhoi i ddulliau eraill o wella amrywiaeth yn y Senedd. Felly, yn union fel rydych chi'n sôn rŵan am beidio â sicrhau mai dim ond un math o fenywod fyddai'n cael eu hethol o gefndir pendant, sut byddwn ni, felly, yn edrych ar yr holl nodweddion gwarchodedig, ac i ba raddau mae angen dulliau o'r fath er mwyn cyflawni amcanion y Bil hwn? Dwi ddim yn siŵr pwy fyddai'n hoffi mynd yn gyntaf. Rydyn ni wedi colli Rosie hefyd.

Thank you very much and good morning to you. We have focused, clearly, in terms of this Bill, on equal representation on the basis of gender, but in the conversation now, we were moving on to one of the things you covered as an expert panel in terms of seeking to ensure that candidates that stand across Wales are representative of the varied communities that they represent in terms of all of the protected characteristics, as well as being gender balanced. Although this isn't contained within this particular Bill, I would appreciate it if you could outline any consideration that you as a panel gave to other ways of improving diversity in the Senedd. So, just as you mentioned there, in ensuring that it's not just one kind of woman that's selected from a particular background, how would we then look at all of the protected characteristics, and to what extent do we need such methods to deliver the objectives of this Bill? I'm not sure who'd like to go first. I think we've lost Rosie now.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Heledd. I'm happy to go first. I've probably said as much as I can say on this, but I do think it's really fundamental that we don't just replicate the selection processes that we already have for men and women without using quotas, but that we try and implement the quotas with an objective that is much more diverse driven than just sex based. Because if we look across the protected characteristics, it goes back to my point about really being mindful of the protected characteristics and utilising them to our advantage, because I think that is the absolute way to be fair and inclusive on this agenda, and see where we can incentivise women, from all of those protected characteristic groups, to come forward and be nurtured and mentored in the way that we've talked about. And prioritised, let's be frank; this requires prioritisation. Because with a limited pool of candidates, even in a 96-seat Senedd, there's going to be choices to be made about candidates, and I'm afraid that means there are winners and losers in that equation. But we do need to make sure that the women who come forward, and that we bring forward, are not just white women of the types that we've talked about already. There has to be more variety or we lose legitimacy and we lose credibility in the importance of the diversity element of this intervention.

If I can just add to that, you said in your previous answer in terms of cost often being seen as a barrier. You mentioned your personal view in terms of should political parties receive more funding to support this. Should we be looking, therefore, at expanding the programmes, such as the one in terms of disabled candidates, to remove the costs from being a barrier if we want diversity in terms of socioeconomic background, so that there are no barriers there?

10:15

It's a really good point, and instinctively I'm drawn to that, because I think socioeconomic disadvantage is probably the biggest disadvantage, and of course that then has ramifications in certain communities. In black and minority ethnic communities, there would be more socioeconomic disadvantage, largely, so it all ties in together. My only doubt about the financial one is how do you manage the funds and where do you place them. Is this, for example, almost like an individual personal support for a candidate once she becomes accepted onto a list to allow her to take time off work or for childcare or the like, or is it done at a previous stage of deliberation where the parties are merely casting their net more broadly to try and bring in women from socioeconomically different backgrounds? I think that's an interesting piece of research, by the way, to do, but I'm not sure anybody's done it, unless Sarah tells me otherwise, about how that would work in practice. Maybe that's something to commission, because it would be a really good and interesting project for us as academics, but I don't think anybody's actually done it yet.

No, I don't think that has happened. I think you can look globally and see the other kinds of incentives that can be deployed to support a particular kind of candidate, whether that's, for example, the provision of bicycles to women in East Timor or providing parties that are fulfilling a quota for particular candidates with an additional political broadcast. So, there are ways of using party regulation to incentivise political parties, but that's opening up a different kind of terrain, so I don't want to spend too much time on that.

But the point I think I would make about list systems is that because a political party is putting forward—let's think about the major political parties—a slate of candidates, it's very obvious from that slate whether they are picking very uniform candidates. So, it will be obvious, whereas one of the things I think that can happen under our first-past-the-post system is that nobody really realises at the aggregate level whether there's a homogeneity of candidates—they all look the same, they all come from the same background—until the day after the election, and you say, 'All these women are like this, and all the men are like this', or, 'There's not very many men', 'There's not very many women.' Where a party's putting forward a slate of up to eight candidates, you will be able to tell as a voter who the party has selected, and the party itself will therefore have an incentive to pick a more diverse set of candidates. That is an observation associated with proportional representation systems. Where you're putting forward a slate of candidates, there is already an incentive to be more diverse, and if you then add in a quota, then your likelihood—as Laura's said all along, there's no guarantee—is that you'll increase the chances of having a more diverse slate.

Thank you. That's really helpful. In the same way, you're not aware if there are X amount of women candidates on first-past-the-post but not necessarily in seats that are winnable for that party. Rosie, do you have any additional comments?

I would just like to echo Laura's points about job share. One of the things we really care about is seeing diversity across a range of characteristics, and for people who have got caring needs, who have got disabilities, sometimes job share can be a way to access roles that they couldn't do full time, men and women, and that would be a fantastic initiative.

Could I just say one final point about that? I think it's really interesting that places beyond Wales are really keen to see what you are doing on job sharing—the fact that you've taken it seriously and it's part of your considerations. I think that's really impressive for what's going on in Wales at the moment, and people are keen to see that taken seriously from outside.

Diolch. Os caf i ofyn cwestiwn olaf, fedrwch chi amlinellu'ch barn chi ynglŷn â'r pwysigrwydd, efallai, o gasglu a chyhoeddi data ar amrywiaeth ymgeiswyr, ac os ydych chi'n meddwl y byddai hyn yn helpu ni i gynyddu amrywiaeth? Pwy fyddai'n hoffi mynd gyntaf?

Thank you. If I could ask a final question, can you outline your views on the importance of the collection and publication of candidate diversity data, and if you think that this could help us to increase diversity? Who would like to go first?

I'm very happy to jump in on this one, because section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 is one of my most favourite pieces of legislation that has not been enacted. I think it's about transparency, it's about empowering voters and others in civil society to hold political parties to account. I think it's a shame that the Governments post 2010 have not enacted that piece of legislation, and I think it's an absolute minimal requirement. It should not have been left on the shelf, in my opinion, and I realise I've been quite strong there.

10:20

'Hear, hear' to all of that. We actually made that recommendation in the expert panel report, by the way. I don't accept the arguments that are raised that this would put an unreasonable burden on political parties. It's a burden that will bring dividends and is not as big as some parties would make it out to be, so I think it's pretty fundamental.

Can I just ask one question on that before we close? If I'm right, section 106 requires a Minister of the Crown to make that change, not a Welsh Minister. Are we aware whether Welsh Ministers have asked for that to happen or not? I know we can ask the Ministers themselves. Are you aware if that's been asked or not?

I'm not aware. We made the recommendation that the request should be made to the Secretary of State for Wales, I think, in our expert panel report, but I'm not aware that that request has been made. So, I think it's something that would be very useful to know, for sure.

Okay. We've come to the end of our time. Well, actually, we've exceeded the end of our time. So, can I thank you all for your attendance today and for the evidence you provided? As you know, you will receive a copy of the transcript and, if there are any factual inaccuracies, can you please let us know so we can have them corrected as soon as possible? So, once again, thank you very much for this morning’s evidence session.

And on that point we'll now take a short break, and we can reconvene in about 10 minutes.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:21 a 10:32.

The meeting adjourned between 10:21 and 10:32.

10:30
4. Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda sefydliadau diwygio etholiadol
4. Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill: Evidence session with electoral reform organisations

Can I welcome Members and the public back to this morning’s meeting of the committee? And we’ll now move into our second evidence session this morning, with electoral reform organisations. And can I welcome Hannah Stevens, chief executive of Elect Her, who’s attending virtually this morning, and Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society? Can I welcome you both? And, obviously, thank you to the Fawcett Society for the written evidence, but we’ll go now to some questions straight away, and I’ll lead off with a very simple one: can you provide, perhaps—and I'll do it alternatively—your view of the Bill’s provisions in the sense of quotas? And is there a need for a Bill on quotas, or is the voluntary approach working or not working? And I think that the two link together in one sense. So, I’ll do Hannah first, then Jemima second.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to join this conversation. At Elect Her, we support women at every stage of their democratic engagement, right from the very beginning of them exploring what politics might mean for them, through joining political parties—if that’s the journey of choice—through candidacy and into election. And we really feel like we’ve been listening to the voices of hundreds of women across Britain over the past few years and have got a wealth of knowledge about their experiences of engaging in democracy. And, honestly, there are challenges for women at every single stage of that process, rooted in societal misogyny.

Now, we welcome this invitation to talk to you today. We are a multipartisan organisation, and, as part of that, and our commitment to deep inclusion, we’re not taking a firm stand on whether we advocate for quotas at any point, because that then aligns us ideologically with one end of the spectrum. But what we can do is we can refer to the wealth of academic and global research that indicates that gender quotas do have an impact on gender-balanced political representation. And we can acknowledge that and we can see that we do need to be putting forward as many measures as possible in order to improve our democracy and make it a more welcoming place for women.

So, there’s a lot that I can offer to the conversation about the reality of women’s experiences, and the pipeline, and I’m thrilled that the Senedd is pushing through this Bill and exploring what it can do to proactively ensure that we do have a gender-balanced democracy.

So, at Fawcett, we campaign for gender equality and women’s rights. We do a lot of work on women’s political representation, and we think that this Bill is a really important step in ensuring that we sustainably achieve women’s equality in our politics and in the Senedd, with really significant benefits for equality, for justice, and for the quality of politics.

As Hannah has alluded to, the evidence is really clear and consistent that women are systematically disadvantaged and excluded from our political processes and structures, and that quotas with the right conditions are a really important tool in overcoming that and rebalancing and creating, frankly, a more equal playing field. So, we're really supportive, both of the commitment that we're seeing from the Senedd to women's equal representation and to equality, and to the approach of using quotas as a really evidence-based mechanism.

Of course, it's important that that doesn't then mean we feel like we can sit back and relax. It's important to continue a wider set of changes to politics so that it is inclusive, and it's important to make sure that there is diversity within that cohort of women as well, so we would also be encouraging Assembly Members to be looking at other conditions, like financial support for candidates with caring responsibilities or disabilities, and making sure data is collected and published about the demographics of Members. Women's Equality Network Wales have done work calling for the standards and complaints processes to be reviewed, and we would support that as well, as part of a package of measures, but this is an incredibly important step that we're really pleased to be able to give evidence on and to support.

10:35

Okay, thank you. I'm going to come back to my next question later, because I think, let's talk about some of the other issues and particularly the Bill's provisions. Heledd.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Byddaf i'n siarad yn Gymraeg. Diolch. Efallai os gwnaf i ddechrau efo chi, Jemima, oherwydd eich bod chi'n cymryd barn bach yn fwy pendant, felly. Oes yna ystyriaeth rydych chi wedi'i rhoi o ran y cwota o o leiaf 50 y cant, sydd wedi ei roddi ar y Bil hwn, ac a oes yna heriau wrth bennu'r cwota ar y lefel yma?

Thank you very much. I'll be asking my questions in Welsh. Thank you. Perhaps I could start with you, Jemima, as you do take a more definite view. Is there any consideration you have given in terms of the minimum 50 per cent quota, which is set out in this Bill, and are there any challenges in setting the quota at that level?

Thank you. Shall I keep these on while we—?

So, I think 50 per cent is an appropriate level, because it is nearly aligned with women's representation in the population. I guess, underpinning that, I wonder if there are two concerns, and forgive me if I'm misinterpreting.

One is that perhaps it's too high, and that perhaps there wouldn't be sufficient women in order to meet that threshold. I would say that the evidence is clear that where there are quotas, actually, it turns out that there are often more women than the level. That was the case in Ireland, where parties believed that they wouldn't be able to meet that threshold and then found that they exceeded it. That is important because we know that it's—. A big part of the obstacles to women's participation is actually at selectorate level in the local parties, and so when you kind of remove that power for those individuals to express a preference or a bias towards men, you unleash a kind of pool of talent. But also, we know that quotas and equality rhetoric have an important impact on the pool—the supply of women. So, in our research, which looked UK wide, we found that a lot of women cited equality guarantees or rhetoric from leadership about commitment to equality as being a really important signal to them that they were needed and wanted in the party, and encouraged them to step forward.

I think the other question, perhaps, is: will the structuring of the lists mean that we actually get to a 50:50 Senedd, because you could place women in less winnable seats? I think it is important to pay attention to that and to review it. We know that where there is freedom to do so, parties tend to put men in more winnable seats, and that can reinforce male over-representation. So, I think that is something to make part of the review process for this.

Yes. To reiterate everything that Jemima says, we work closely with the Fawcett Society and have a lot of shared views in this area, but women make up 51 per cent of the population in Wales, so therefore aiming for 51 per cent of elected Members of the Senedd is what we would be working for in our work. I think, as we've already mentioned, it's exciting to be having this conversation, but also we mustn't consider this the ultimate solution to the challenges of women's participation in our democracy.

We've been doing work over the past year, and we've identified 48 different reasons why we don't have enough women in our elected spaces, and this references to one of those points. And these stem within data and research, community and networks, education and training, the lack of transparent processes for getting involved in political parties. Jemima's already mentioned that the challenges are at selectorate level, but—. We don't have enough data, but it's estimated that women only make up a third of the membership of political parties. And where, in the current system, political parties do dominate the Senedd, of course, the political parties are the pipeline where women come through. So, there's a huge amount of work that needs to be done in terms of the culture within political parties. And that is around the selectorate, absolutely, but it's about the participation of membership, and we believe a lot of that is down to transparency of information. It's quite unclear how to engage in political parties. So, a lot of work that we do is about fundamentally trying to understand that inside the parties and demystify that information for women so that they can access it. But our concerns around this are around the supply pipeline of women being available and ready and prepared to step forward into elected office. There are hundreds of fantastic, fantastic women, thousands of them, that are ready to do this, but the societal challenges and the unequal burden of care, that women often have lack of access to—less access to—finances to enable it—. There are so many other factors that I'm happy to go into the details of if requested that are relevant here.

10:40

Thank you. Can I just ask, as a follow-up from that, do you have any evidence, or have you done any research in terms of the impact of some of the changes post COVID, so, such as remote working practices and that engagement in political parties? More political parties are having constituency meetings, for instance, online now. Have you got any research specifically on those mechanisms?

Not specific research, but a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that that period of time when all of democratic activity did move online, it absolutely opened the doors to more and more women to be able to access it, and people with caring responsibilities, those with disabilities, those for whom physically making their way to a political party meeting on a Wednesday evening was a challenge that they couldn't add to their schedules. So, anecdotally, it was absolutely very, very clear to us that, during that few years where meetings were happening online, more women were able to engage. And, subsequently, as things have shifted, some spaces have continued that, but a lot of parties haven't and have returned to in-person meetings. And, again, anecdotally, lots of women in our community are saying that they had a period of political engagement, and as things have returned to in-person prioritising they haven't been able to be as present. And there is a real issue within selection processes within all parties around presenteeism, and I think that was—. People want to see, want to be choosing candidates who have demonstrated their commitment to the party, and that in itself isn't the idealistic way to be choosing the people to be representing us. Whereas people were able to demonstrate that presenteeism—right or wrongly—through digital participation. So, only anecdotally, but it's very strong that digital participation does absolutely increase it.

And if I could add, I think one of the really important benefits of that was that it removed the discretionary nature of some of that flexibility. So that, what you can have, where it's in the gift of party leadership or whips to offer a kind of a proxy vote or not to be there for a particular discussion, that reinforces particular kind of hierarchies and it means you haven't got the right, you have to stay in the good books of the person who's got that power. So, it's really important. It was important that we had that period where that flexibility was there and everyone was entitled to it, which is a really important foundation.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Byddaf i'n dychwelyd i'r Gymraeg. Mi oedd y pwyllgor diben arbennig wedi argymell dull am-yn-eilio. Sut ydych chi'n meddwl ei fod y system sydd wedi cael ei gynnig yn y Bil yn cymharu efo hynny a ydych chi'n meddwl ei fod e'n briodol? Efallai os wnaf i fynd at Hannah yn gyntaf y tro yma.

Thank you very much. I will ask my next question in Welsh. Now, the special purpose committee had recommended a zipping approach. How do you think that the system proposed in the Bill compares with that approach and do you think it's appropriate? Perhaps I could start with Hannah this time.

I have to say I don't feel equipped to answer the specifics of the electoral systems regarding this.

I think it's probably slightly beyond my technical skill as well, but I think that the alternation and the requirement that half of the lists are headed by a woman are really important features in ensuring that we do get that overall balance.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Cwestiwn olaf gen i, Cadeirydd. Oes gennych chi farn o ran a ydych chi'n meddwl bod darpariaethau'r Bil yn ymarferol ac yn mynd i gyflawni'r nod o ethol Senedd sy'n gytbwys o ran rhywedd? Oes yna fwy rydych chi'n meddwl sydd angen ei wneud, neu ydych chi'n meddwl bod hyn yn ddigonol? Efallai os caf i ddod atoch chi'n gyntaf, Jemima.

Thank you very much. And a final question from me, Chair. Do you have any views as to whether you think the provisions of the Bill are workable and whether they will achieve the aim of electing a gender-balanced Senedd? Is there more that you think needs to be done or do you think that this is adequate? Perhaps I could start with you, Jemima.

10:45

Diolch. So, I absolutely think that it is workable. It will be important to ensure that there is scrutiny and accountability around implementation, and fair warning for participants that it's going to happen. But I think that there's no reason to think that that can't be achieved. In the past, systems of this sort have been very effective and parties have found it easier to deliver than they had anticipated. I would certainly expect this to see a significant increase. I think whether we get to 50:50 is slightly to be seen and does depend on parties' willingness to really put women in those most winnable seats. So, I think that does have to be kept under review.

Is it enough on its own? No. Because of course we could have a Senedd that is 50:50 but in other ways is exclusionary and not a healthy or high-functioning environment. For instance, there's evidence that looks at Sweden, where they have quotas and good representation, and yet issues like sexual harassment or abuse of women parliamentarians remains prevalent in a way that restricts them from fully participating as equals. So, it is important that this isn't seen as permission to stand down on other work to drive equality and inclusion, and that it's important to look holistically. It's one tool. Once those women are in, they need to be able to create a system and a culture that genuinely works with and for them. And it's also important that there is diversity within that cohort in terms of class, ethnicity, disability, sexuality. We obviously don't want to replace one sort of over-representation with another. 

Yes, just to add to Jemima's points, I concur with everything that she said, that really we want to be setting this up to win and so, if the Bill does pass and we're able to see an increased number of women elected, then we need to ensure the environment that they're being elected to enables them to thrive so that it continues to grow and we have a stronger pipeline. When women are seeing themselves in our elected representatives, it has an absolutely enormous impact on their desire to consider a future career in politics and get more engaged themselves. 

I'd really encourage the committee to also look at the work of the gender sensitive audit that's happened in the Scottish Parliament. Building on what Jemima just said, there are some really interesting references to the demographic make-up of committees, who speaks at what time, and really examining the intricacies of ensuring that that workplace is gender balanced, once women are elected there. So, again, to affirm Jemima's point, this is a fantastic step in terms of exploring how we can get more women elected, but there are so many different elements to this, pre-candidacy and once elected, that really need to be considered as part of the movement to make a better democracy for Wales. 

You mentioned earlier on, I think, Hannah, just about the fact that your organisation works with women all the way through the process, from them expressing an interest in politics to joining a party and perhaps considering becoming a candidate et cetera. Obviously, political parties are struggling to recruit a sufficient number of women candidates and to get them to come forward. What do you think needs to happen in terms of, perhaps, support for political parties in order to help them with that outreach work and inreach work within their parties that they might need to do in order to encourage women to put themselves forward?

A huge amount. There's a huge amount that the political parties could be doing to create cultures where women feel welcomed, equal and prepared to step forward and contribute, and it covers a huge range of areas. So, the first one is data and research. We'd really advocate for—. We would see a big difference if political parties were publishing their diversity data around membership and considering the make-up of the people who are part of the party. I think that's a key one for us, as well as that party events and meetings need to be inclusive. We need to have this creative, cultural space where the needs of all members are taken into consideration—the location of the meeting, the timing of the meeting. And this does refer back to the digital participation. 

Currently, lots of the parties' decision making done through inclusive networks, so you're in the gang or you’re not in the gang, and if you’re not in the gang or you’re a new member you don’t really know how to access that information or which community to be a part of, and that really does provide a huge amount of barriers for women who simply don’t understand how the party works and who the person is locally that has access to the information that they might require, whether it’s around party participation or future candidacy.

Financial support is a massive one, and we do think that political parties could do more to support those on low incomes with the additional costs that come with standing for elected office. I’ve got a lot to say about financing of women as well, but I won’t go into that now. Political parties also implement transparent and accessible processes for involvement—so, again, this understanding of how do you put yourself forward for a candidate and when is it happening. It comes from the very nature of political parties being run by local volunteers; an e-mail goes out saying that, ‘We need candidates to step forward next week.' Well, for lots of women, that’s not achievable, to do all of the thinking and the preparation around that you need to do before you consider taking on such a massive responsibility. So, we absolutely really do advocate this need for transparent and accessible processes, and I wonder where there is an opportunity for legislation around that, that that isn’t just within the gift of the political parties. And so, within that, we also need to see clear pathways established to support and protect elected representatives from abuse and harassment within the political bodies and within our institutions more widely.

And as we mentioned earlier, we need to see women strategically placed in winnable seats, I think. The parties could be doing a huge amount more to do that. When there’s a demonstration there's commitment to equality, then I think that’s felt. If parties are forced to look at ways of adjusting their culture and making those processes clearer, it opens up for a much more inclusive environment; we’re going to see more women and more people from other under-represented communities too.

10:50

Yes. So, I would support everything that Hannah has said. I guess I would add as well that I think—. Of course I want to support and encourage parties but I also want to encourage them to acknowledge their responsibilities to act, and there’s an abundance of evidence about the sexism and discrimination that persists within party structures, and it is incumbent on parties, as the main vehicle for people accessing political office, to address that, and so instead of a focus on encouraging women to stand, which obviously I’m supportive of, we’re also asking parties to stop discouraging women to stand. So, our research found that women talk about party meetings as really masculinised environments where women are invisiblised, consistently talked over, shouted down, dismissed and ignored. There are those issues that Hannah has raised around the timing of those meetings, is it considered acceptable or appropriate to your children to those meetings if you need to, and who gets considered as suitable candidates. So, women reported being asked questions about their marital status, their family and childcare, their religion, in ways that clearly indicate there is an expectation of who the right kind of candidate is, and it’s a default kind of white male candidate, able-bodied. So, I would say that parties should be aware of this and should be taking proactive steps to address that.

I mean, as you both indicated, I think, in the evidence you've sent in, both written and the oral evidence today, many of those barriers are barriers for people who are not white male middle-class as well. I came from a working-class background, and many other people in my party don’t have that traditional—what people might perceive as traditional—sort of political profile, and it’s the same with other political parties too. So, do you think there’s a wider piece of work to go on about taking down some of these barriers? And can I particularly ask you—? So, one of the things that the Welsh Government has done, which has been welcomed by all political parties and had cross-party support, is it’s made finances available to try and overcome some of the barriers that disabled people have to enter politics, particularly at local government level. It’s not a huge sum of money, but it does help them with things like their transport arrangements and other aspects of the costs that can be associated with elections.

You mentioned specifically finance as being a barrier, Hannah. Should political parties have funding from the state in order to support people in overcoming some of these barriers so we can get a more diverse Parliament, and particularly, of course, in the context of this Bill, women?

10:55

Absolutely. I think in order to increase the candidate pool of women in Wales, women need to be able to afford to stand for election, and finance is such a critical barrier to women's candidacy. Generally, women are more likely to live in poverty, be on lower incomes and have caring responsibilities, and standing for election is just simply unaffordable for many women, and therefore shrinks that prospective candidate pool. Our research shows that women in our communities spend up to £1,000 during their local government campaign, and, anecdotally, we know it's much, much more for general elections and Senedd elections where the election period is typically longer and constituencies are much larger.

In 2022 we began issuing grants to under-represented women who were standing for election, but for the personal costs involved in standing, not for the campaign costs. Through that process, we've engaged in intimate, lengthy conversations with lots of women about the challenges that they face, and these are fantastic, dynamic women who are stepping forward to represent their communities, using their lived experience as a superpower and bringing that under-represented voice to local councils. The conversations we've had with them have been so revealing about the challenges they face. Several women that we spoke to—we've been doing this over the past two months, and several women really had real concerns related to the cost-of-living crisis, just simply struggling to pay for bills. Women said that they couldn't afford clothing needs. There was one woman we spoke to who was out campaigning so much she wore holes in the bottom of her shoes, but couldn't afford to buy herself a new pair of shoes. These expenses aren't considered part of campaign spending, so political parties wouldn't have any interest or commitment, as it currently stands, to contribute towards those costs, yet they are the real costs that women are incurring as they take this on. We have to be looking at that and taking that seriously.

This really does also have a real impact on candidates' mental health, and several women that we spoke to recently didn't have appropriate technology. So, if they had a laptop at all in the house, it was one that was shared with the whole household. They were juggling trying to be an active candidate whilst helping the kids to do their homework. So, just these simple things that lots of people might take for granted as being the standard equipment or tools that you have in your home to enable this, actually, that's not the case for everybody. By not considering those financial needs, we're really immediately wiping out a huge group of our society who could, otherwise, be really fantastic elected representatives.

Childcare is another one, absolutely, where if we want people that are carers for young children, or carers more generally, we need to be looking at those costs too. So, we don't have a specific position on whether the state should offer that. I think that's really something for the committee to explore, but just to really affirm and share our experience that this is a huge, undiscussed issue, which is the personal costs related to a campaign and how women and other under-represented groups can be supported with those personal costs.

I just would support and agree with everything that Hannah said. Like Elect Her, Fawcett doesn't have an official position on whether that funding should come from the state, but we've certainly advocated for parties and for provision of funding for supporting disabled candidates and with childcare. Those additional costs are a really significant barrier.

And so transport, ICT, childcare or any other caring responsibilities that someone might have, income forgone if they're having to take time off work in order to campaign—they're the sorts of costs you think that, because they're barriers, we could try to address through some resourcing, yes?

I would agree, and I would say as well that that should reflect that women may face additional security needs. So, it may be that they don't feel safe doing a walk home at night, so they might end up taking a taxi, whereas someone else might look at that and consider it unnecessary. It needs to have that kind of gender perspective about what is appropriate spending.

Other calls we've made have looked at whether these costs can be pooled. So, for instance, could childcare expenses be separated out from other parliamentary expenses, or travel, in order to avoid that sense that people are overspending on things thatwe would perhaps agree are essential.

Thank you for that. Can I just ask you a little bit more about the electoral system, if I can? So, obviously, the Bill focuses on people having to declare, at the point that they become candidates, whether they are a woman or not a woman, and there's no definition of what a woman is on the face of the Bill, so it allows people to self-identify for themselves whether they're a woman or not a woman. Is that a sensible thing, or would you rather it be a biological statement, as it were? What are your views? Do you have views on those things?

11:00

So, at Fawcett I think we take the position that this is for parties to determine what is their position and that we would support inclusive lists that would include, for instance, trans women.

Similarly, we're not interested in defining what a woman is—the patriarchy has been doing that for long enough.

Thank you very much. Thank you, both, for being here today. As we know—Darren you've mentioned your party—in my party, Welsh Labour, we currently have 17 women and 13 men in our group. However, the majority of those women were selected on an all-women shortlist mechanism, therefore I believe that it does demonstrate that that mechanism works, quotas can work. And there is also an argument, because we hardly ever, sometimes never, win on an open selection, so there is an argument that I, myself, would not be here today, as the other women wouldn't, if we didn't have that mechanism within our party.

However, I want to touch a little bit more on that diversity and inclusion that you were talking about, because, as you've stated, in achieving gender parity, which is the main objective of this Bill, we want to ensure that other forms of discrimination are not further entrenched in the process. So, could you outline whether you believe that the provisions of the Bill will increase the representation of under-represented groups, like disabled people and ethnic minorities?

I don't think I could speak to whether it will, in and of itself. I think there is some evidence to suggest that, where quotas are mandatory, it does diversify the pool of women that are brought in, as opposed to voluntary quotas, which have less success doing that. But I think, as we've said, if you don't take other active steps, you won't achieve a wider culture of equality and inclusion. And so it is important not to rest on our laurels.

I don't think I've got anything to add to that. I think I'd support that.

Thank you. Also, in gathering evidence for the previous Bill that we looked at, the overall reform Bill, we did ask people what they thought, in anticipation of this, about having gender quotas, and it was quite shocking and disappointing, in a way, to hear from people that they assumed that the women that were currently here were all here, and the term they used was, 'organically', and had absolutely no awareness that all-women shortlist mechanisms exist, what were used, or that, as I said, likely, many of the women sitting on the benches would not be there today without that.

So, there are calls within the evidence that we've received for today's session saying that the Senedd has the responsibility to be more transparent about these processes and to have further education of the public about what mechanisms are being used. So, do you think, then, it would be a good idea for the Senedd to publish how people were selected and how they are sitting on the benches in the Chamber? But also there's been a call for including—for example, it's very difficult to find out, when it comes to diversity, people who stood for selection and were not selected and how important it would be to have a record of that. That is all gathered anecdotally and it's very hard to find out, even from individual parties. And then finally, also, all the parties now really should and are being called on to create an inclusion and diversity strategy. Do you believe that they should all be published as well?

Shall I begin? I think it's really interesting the extent to which people don't realise the persistence and prevalence of gender inequality and so look at the Senedd and assume that that's just happened by chance, because people perceive us to live in a world that is more equal, sadly, than it is. I can see a case for publishing that a proportion of candidates or Senedd Members were selected or elected through a particular mechanism, or the role of quotas. I think I would be concerned about identifying individuals, because I think one of the strengths of the system is that it busts the myth that you get a different calibre of candidate, because no-one can distinguish, once they're in a position of power, which Members have been elected on open lists, or an all-women shortlist, or through a quota system or not. And I would be concerned about something that made that label permanent, because I think it creates a false sense that there is a distinction that isn't there. But a broader deepening of understanding of the barriers and the work that has to happen to overcome that I would definitely welcome.

I would say we absolutely should require parties to collect and publish anonymised data. Fawcett does a piece of work every two years called 'Sex and Power', where we count the number of women that hold positions of power across the UK. It's incredibly difficult to do because the data isn't available. It's imperfect because you have to make judgments and assessments. And, frankly, it seems ridiculous that a charity is doing the really important work of accounting and auditing who has power and whether we're equal or not. That should be something that is just part of our system, for us to know who is governing us and whether we're making progress. So, that data would be really, really important.

I would absolutely support the publication of inclusion and diversity strategies. I think it's a way for everyone to make sure that they're performing at the same standard or maybe outperforming their fellow parties, to learn from each other, but also to create some accountability around what's actually happened and whether people are actually delivering them. It's fine to have a strategy and a plan, but if you never actually implement it or never see any progress or don't have any kind of meaningful measures of change, then it's just a wish list.

11:05

Thanks. I would just add to that a little bit more about the data and how vital it is. We would be supportive of any transparent measures that really do make our democracy more transparent. I think some of the challenges that we face more widely at the moment in our democracy do relate to the lack of information and the lack of understanding that the general public have about the roles of elected representatives, their responsibilities, and even the financial benefits that our elected representatives have. People are so surprised, for example, when they learn that councillors receive relatively low remuneration. So, we'd be very eager for communication campaigns that really do demystify our democracy for people. But I would also agree with Jemima's reflections that actually publishing the information about how people were selected might end up being a discriminatory process.

The diversity data is a really important one, and I'm pleased to hear you talk about collecting the data of those that applied for selection and weren't selected either, which is almost pre-candidacy, because I think that's such a telling point about who is making it through those panels, through that sifting process within the political parties, and to be able to monitor and track whether we are losing potentially diverse candidates at that stage. 

We know that section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 is held in the power of the UK Government, but really it's vital that we are able to start to see that published data around political party candidate diversity. But that Act in itself is only about parliamentary elections, so I'd be really keen to encourage the committee to explore what this looks like in local government as well, because actually the two places, in terms of the pipeline, are so entwined. There aren't different systems within the political parties whether you're engaging with the party and moving towards standing for the Senedd or engaging with the party and moving towards standing for local council. That is the same pipeline. 

I appreciate this Bill is about the Senedd, but examining where the influence you can have in examining all of this data regarding local councils I think is absolutely vital. So, that's not covered in 106, but it would be so incredibly useful to look at the candidate data and the pre-candidate data, those that are applying to be candidates, in local government. I think that would tell you a huge amount about the parties and the actions that they're taking to create a more inclusive environment where more diverse communities and greater numbers of women feel that they can step forward to represent them.

Thank you very much. My last question: you mentioned that the Scottish Parliament did a gender-sensitive audit, do you think that the Senedd should do the same? Also, can you just give us some examples of how we could make it more attractive for people with protected characteristics to stand and any good examples that you could point us towards? Thank you.

I would absolutely really, really encourage the Welsh Senedd to deliver a gender-sensitive audit. I think witnessing that process and engaging in conversations with Members who are involved in it and their staff team really opened their eyes to societal barriers and societal misogyny and how that shows up in the very smallest of ways in daily interactions within the workplace. I think the Senedd is demonstrating itself to be really progressive in this space by having this Bill and engaging in this conversation today, and I think a gender-sensitive audit would be a really appropriate and complementary piece of work to deliver on the piece, which is that, if we are working to get more women into the Senedd, then, actually we need to make sure that it's a fantastic place for them to come to work every day.

One small example is the lack of childcare available in the Senedd for Senedd Members—that's a very notable and simple one. I believe it was intended, in the creation of the Senedd, that there was an intention for a creche, but, as I understand it—and do correct me if I'm wrong—that hasn't quite come to fruition. And it's a very simple one. Without that, you're not telling mothers or fathers—and fathers, in that sense—that they're welcome here and that this is a place for them. So, I think there are some pretty simple implementations of work, but, again, that audit would help to identify all the different areas for development.

11:10

So, echo Hannah on that—a sensitivity audit is a really fantastic thing to do. I think there's a lot that can be done to demonstrate to other people with other protected characteristics that they're welcomed and encouraged, and to remove barriers. Part of that is the importance of publicly committing to it, and sending that message that people are wanted, and that work will be put in place to support them. Part of it is about, I think, publishing those plans where you demonstrate the changes that you're going to make in order to overcome those barriers, being clear that you recognise that the lack of representation is not because of a deficit amongst those groups, it's because of the barriers put in place by the existing system, and that the onus is on us and that system to remove it. And that does also go back to party level. So, one of the examples in our research about that pipeline was a disabled woman who was coming to a selection meeting. The local party knew her and yet they had put a podium on a stage with four steps that she was unable to access, so, when she arrived, she had to stand on the floor and shout. This is completely unacceptable, that you would create that kind of hierarchy and exclude someone in that way. So, it's at every level making sure that we are reflective and inclusive and not creating completely unnecessary barriers to people participating on fair terms. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi am siarad yn Gymraeg. Dwi am gyffwrdd ar ddau beth. Dŷch chi wedi sôn am y rhwystrau a'r gefnogaeth mae angen inni eu cael i fwy o fenywod sefyll, a hefyd pan fyddan nhw'n ymgeiswyr. Oes yna fwy dŷch chi eisiau ei ychwanegu i hynny? Dŷch chi wedi dweud digon, yn fy marn i, ar hynny, ond oes yna fwy dŷch chi eisiau ei ddweud wrthym ni am y rhwystrau, a hefyd y gefnogaeth? Dwi'n meddwl Hannah, ydych chi eisiau dweud mwy?

Thank you very much. I'll be speaking in Welsh. I want to touch on two issues. You mentioned the barriers and the support that we need for encouraging more women to stand, and when they are candidates. Is there anything that you want to add to your comments? I think you've said enough, in my opinion, on that, but is there anything else that you want to say about the barriers, and also the support that's provided? Hannah, would you like to go first?

There is so much to say. I could speak for several hours about this; it's my favourite topic of conversation, as you can imagine. I think we've covered a large range of the issues, but one key piece of work that we're doing that I'd really like to continue to collaborate with Members on is really looking at this big picture of what are all of these change mechanisms that we need to see in place and, over the next few years, begin to hold spaces and groups accountable, and, in order to that, we need to determine indicators of success. What does success truly look like?

At the moment, the only way of measuring whether we are making progress in this work is, every electoral cycle, counting the number of women who are elected—that's our only indicator of success. Whereas, if we were looking at other issues, such as the abuse and harassment that women might be facing on their journey to political representation, I think, if we had ways of monitoring that, I think, unfortunately, we probably would see that backsliding, but we don't have the ability to do that. It's something that we are really keen to advocate for and starting to work in ourselves, but we'd love to work in partnership with the Senedd to explore that, because I think this absolutely does need a system-wide perspective. As Jemima wonderfully said: why is it up to a charity to be holding our society to account in this incredibly important work? And Fawcett, WEN and us, and there are a few other organisations that work deeply in this space and have a lot of knowledge and expertise in it, and we'd really like to be critical friends to the Senedd on your journey of exploring how you can really make this a fantastic space.

I think the Welsh Parliament, the Assembly, was the first Parliament in the world to reach 50 per cent gender representation—I think that's something you should be incredibly proud of, as we are too. I really applaud your efforts to continuing this work through this Bill, but I hope that we can work together in the details.

11:15

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jemima, dwi ddim yn gwybod os ydych chi eisiau dweud mwy, os oes mwy gyda chi.

Thank you very much. Jemima, I don't know whether you want to add anything to that. 

I'd support those comments, and I've got nothing further to add. Thank you. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Felly, yr ail faes dwi eisiau edrych arno ydy rhannu swyddi. Fel dwi'n siŵr rydych chi'n gwybod, mae yna fwriad i edrych ar hyn, efallai ddim yn y Bil, ond ar ryw amser. Beth ydy'ch barn chi ar rannu swyddi—dŷch chi wedi dweud tipyn bach am hynny yn barod—a'r effaith ar gael mwy o fenywod i sefyll ac i fod yn ymgeiswyr yn y Senedd? Pa fath, hefyd, o gefnogaeth a hefyd rhwystrau fydd yna? Gaf i ddechrau efo Jemima yr amser yma, os gwelwch yn dda? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Thank you. So, the second area that I want to explore is job sharing. As I'm sure you know, there is an intention to look at this, perhaps not in the Bill, but in due course. So, what's your opinion on job sharing—you've already mentioned it—and what about the impact on getting more women to stand and to be candidates in Senedd elections? What kind of support and what kind of barriers will there be? Could I start with Jemima this time, please? Thank you. 

Fawcett sees Job shares as a really important way to diversify who can participate. It's important for balancing caring responsibilities and also a really important way to support the participation of disabled candidates.

I think, in terms of barriers, this will be quite a shift in our political system, in the way that we understand accountability and responsibility, so I think it would require investment in time from the Senedd, from Members and the support structures, to develop mechanisms, and also to make the argument publicly and externally as to why this is beneficial and increases the quality and pool of talent in a really valuable way. For me, I think the overwhelming argument is: what an incredible bonus to secure two brilliant minds working on an issue. We know that this is a job that is incredibly demanding, and the pool of work is endless. You could be spending all day in your constituencies and all day scrutinising policy, and having extra brain power and support is a huge bonus, as well, of course, as making it possible for a completely excluded group of people to participate. 

Diolch. A Hannah, oes yna fwy dŷch chi eisiau ei ddweud?

Thank you. And Hannah, is there anything you'd like to add?

Just to add that, again, anecdotally, we really hear a lot from women in our community that, if job sharing was an opportunity as part of their political journey, it's something that they would—. They would consider candidacy in that sense. And one more thing that I wanted to add in there that I've just suddenly forgotten—. So, we'll leave it at that. 

I'm sure it'll come back to you. Thank you. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Dyna i gyd o fi. 

Thank you very much, Chair. That's all from me. 

I think these questions have really been answered, Chair. It seems to me that the collection of diversity data is something that is very important, needs to be done, and should be put on a statutory basis. That's effectively the messages that you've both given to us, so I'm not sure—.

I'll conclude, then, in that case, with a simple question, because I did say I'd leave it til the end. The Bill in particular, before us, is what we're considering, and I suppose I want to try and find out your views as to whether there are any challenges that might arise as a consequence of implementing this particular Bill. Do you foresee—? Have you looked at the Bill and have you considered what challenges the Bill may bring towards both parties and the ability to deliver on its proposals? I'll start with Jemima and then I'll come over to you, Hannah, okay.

I have looked at it. I think, of course, there are always implementation challenges when you change a system, and I would anticipate that you're working on plans to roll out education and information around that, and making sure that parties understand the system and the public understand the system. I think some of the barriers that people might anticipate might be: will there be enough women? I think I've addressed the fact that I believe that there will be more than enough women, and, when you actively look for them and are more reflective about what are the real criteria you need, rather than the default expectations, there's an incredible pool of talent. Hannah's work speaks to that—the amazing women all over the country who are activists in their community and able to stand. Also the quota itself sends out a message to women, 'Maybe politics is ready for me, and it's looking for someone like me now.'

I think there's the potential resistance that you might get, the accusation that candidates that are elected on a quota are of a lower quality. For me, I would say there's just no merit to that argument, and it's incumbent on us all to challenge that and to demonstrate that what we currently have is an over-representation of a particular group. And if we believe that talent, skill and valuable contributions are equally dispersed across our population, then not having equal representation is evidence that we're not getting the very best and the right people that we could be getting right now. So, I think being willing to challenge that—. And then also the evidence that, once women are elected, they are more likely to spend more time working in their local areas, they spend more time on legislative sessions, and raise and advocate for different issues in a way that's really beneficial to politics.

So, I guess I would say on those kinds of potential areas of resistance, I think each of those is either unfounded or can be overcome.  

11:20

I don't have a huge amount to add. I completely—. I suspect there will be resistance, as you're requesting—. As well as the technical implementation of this, you're suggesting a cultural change within political parties that have been dominated by men for a very long time, and I think with that will come that cultural resistance, but I believe that we need to push through that in order to deliver on the Bill as it stands now. And long term, increased representation of women in elected office is associated with focusing resources on the quality and consistency of public service delivery, and I think it'll be a better thing for our democracy when we start to see people's faith in our political institutions improved. And I think this will be a small but vital part of that.  

Can I ask you both, therefore? Obviously we are all representatives of major parties here, but there are the smaller parties. Clearly, a major impact upon us—is this a challenge for some of those smaller parties? 

I don't believe it will be, no. 

There are other challenges that smaller parties face, but I don't think that this is one of them. 

Okay. Thank you. Do any other Members have questions? We're coming close to the end of our time anyway. So, thank you very much for your time this morning and your evidence. You will receive a copy of the transcript. if there are factual inaccuracies, can you please let the team know as soon as possible so we can have them corrected for the record? So, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to perhaps seeing you in the future as well. 

And for Members now, we'll take a short break and we'll reconvene at 11:45. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:22 ac 11:48.

The meeting adjourned between 11:22 and 11:48.

11:45
5. Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Phanel Pleidiau Senedd Cymru y Comisiwn Etholiadol
5. Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill: Evidence session with the Electoral Commission's Welsh Parliament Parties Panel

Good morning. Can I welcome back Members and the public to this morning's evidence session for the committee? We're going to our next item, which is an evidence session with the Electoral Commission's Welsh Parliament parties panel. Can I welcome Geraint Day, who's the deputy chief executive of Plaid Cymru; Tom James, director of the Welsh Conservatives; and, online, Jo McIntyre, who's the general secretary of Welsh Labour? Thank you for the evidence we've received to date. We'll go straight into some questions, if that's okay with you, and we'll start with Jane Dodds.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Dwi am ofyn fy nghwestiynau yn Gymraeg, ac mae'r rhain yn gwestiynau cyffredinol. Ydy popeth yn iawn? Ydych chi'n cael y cyfieithiad, Joanna? Gwych. Y cwestiwn cyntaf yw beth yw barn eich plaid ar beth mae'r Bil yn trio ei wneud ynglŷn â chwotâu, ac yn y blaen. Dyna'r cwestiwn cyntaf, i ddechrau ein sesiwn efo chi. Pwy sydd eisiau mynd yn gyntaf?

Thank you very much, Chair. I'll be asking my questions in Welsh, and these are general questions. Is everything okay? Can you hear the translation, Joanna? Great. The first question is what are the views of your party on what the Bill is trying to do in terms of quotas, and so forth. That's the first question, to kick off our session with you. Who would like to go first?

11:50

I'll tell them who'll go first. We've got Geraint in front of us—he'll go first, then Tom, and then we'll go to Jo.

Diolch am y cwestiwn. Mae cefnogaeth y blaid i'r Bil yma yn 100 y cant. Dŷn ni wedi cytuno, fel plaid, mewn egwyddor, yn ein cynhadledd ni ryw ddwy flynedd yn ôl, i'r math yma o Fil. Ers hynny, dŷn ni wedi bod yn ei ddilyn e yn eithaf manwl. Dŷn ni wedi rhoi tystiolaeth mewn; mae ein haelodau etholedig ni hefyd wedi siarad amdano fe, wrth gwrs. Dŷn ni yn cytuno â'r Bil ac yn ei gefnogi. 

Thank you for the question. Plaid's support for this Bill is 100 per cent. We have agreed, as a party, in principle, in our conference some two years ago, to this kind of approach. Since then, we've been following developments quite carefully. We've provided evidence; our elected members have also spoken on the issue. We agree with the aims of the Bill and support it.

I'll come back to you in a second, because I think the question is more about what it may mean in practical terms for the parties—not the 'in principle' support, but the practicalities of delivering the issues.

Okay. Do you want me to answer that now?

Thank you. The Conservative Party's view on this has already been conveyed by Members of the Conservative Party here in the Senedd. As far as the practicalities go, obviously we will talk about that. In principle, of course, we are in favour of equality and diversity, but it's how it's achieved, I think, is the difficulty we have here and, principally, whether the proposed legislation is within the competence of the Senedd.

We'll talk more on the practicalities, rather than the competence. I'm sure that we'll have legal advice on the competence issues. And Jo.

Hello. Can everyone hear me okay? Fantastic. We support the general principles of the Bill, as per our written submission, and we support a truly representative Senedd. We already do take positive action to ensure women on shortlists and gender-balanced shortlists, but we always do that within the confines of the law. We're keen to play our part within the confines of the law and ensure that there is more diversity at all levels of government.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i ofyn y cwestiwn nesaf, os gwelwch chi'n dda? Gaf i ofyn pa fath o gyswllt sydd wedi bod rhwng eich plaid chi â'r Llywodraeth ynglŷn â'r Bil?

Thank you very much. Could I ask the next question? What kind of engagement has there been between your party and the Government about this Bill?

Thanks very much. We had a special conference—that was last year, I believe—to support the principles of the Bill and set out our support for Senedd reform generally, as well as specific principles within it around lists, et cetera. I think, within that, we're very clear that we have to act in the confines of the law, and that's what we've set out quite clearly and confidently within that. We're in the process of engaging on what that would look like in terms of our internal party processes at the moment, and what sort of impact that would have.

Obviously, the Labour Party is the party of Government in Wales. Has there been any relationship and discussions between the party and the Government in the development of the Bill?

Government and party are separate. We do engage with Ministers, as I think everyone here would engage with their elected representatives, on ensuring that we can create party units and representatives that are effective, so that we can start doing that background work now, we can think about the questions we need to ask, and ensure that we have everything ready for when we need to have it ready. In terms of direct engagement, I'm not quite sure of the question—could you repeat that part of the question, sorry?

We appreciate that the Government has brought forward the Bill, but this question is about what conversations the parties have had with Government in developing the Bill, if any.

In terms of developing the actual content of the Bill?

It was put to our special conference last year, but that was not in terms of developing the Bill, that was more a proposal that was put forward to special conference that was then voted on. There's been no direct conversations, if that makes sense. It's more that a proposal was put to us that we put to our members that was then voted on, as opposed to the other way around. But Ministers have obviously engaged in that process.

11:55

The formal consultation we've had is this, our written submission. As a party, we have discussed our views regarding Senedd reform. It's something that's close to the heart of Plaid Cymru, of course, so it's not an unusual conversation for us to have internally. Direct discussion with Government, I'd say, is limited to individual politicians and, of course, as part of the co-operation agreement. There's been no formal consultation or input from the party per se to Government. 

Our engagement would be limited to the leadership of our group here in the Senedd, our leadership of our professional party—myself—and the leadership of our Welsh Conservative MPs through the Secretary of State, of course, when this first came. I can't remember who was Secretary of State then, but we would have had discussions between that sort of triumvirate, as it were, and also involving the head of our voluntary party as well. Like I said, discussions are more centred around how we would implement it.

At the moment, the Welsh Conservative Party is in the process of constructing rules for those next elections, so we're very much drafting them and waiting to see what the final law and legislation will be. So, our discussions are very much centred around the actual logistics, rather than our views.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi eisiau jest canolbwyntio ar y pwynt olaf yna, hynny yw'r heriau, yn eich barn chi, yn eich plaid chi, y byddech chi'n meddwl y bydd o'ch blaenau chi i weld y Bil yma'n digwydd yn eich plaid chi. Ydych chi wedi sôn am hynny? Gallwch chi jest ddilyn hynny i fyny, os gwelwch yn dda, o ran y pleidiau?

Thank you very much. I would just like to focus on that last point, namely the challenges, in your view, and in the views of your party, that you will face in terms of seeing this Bill happening. Have you discussed that? Could you follow up on that, please, from the perspective of the parties?

Yes, certainly. I think there are a few challenges that we would face. I think it's the definition of 'woman', first and foremost. Then, the idea of the Bill is to, of course, make the Senedd more representative, more diverse—why is it only limiting itself to women on this one, and therefore the definition thereof? I think the challenge that we would then face—and I'm sure other parties would as well—is how we are meant to implement that and certain hurdles like, for example, if someone were to identify as a woman for the sake of becoming—. When we do our ranking system, that person gets No. 1 on a list. If that person then decides to self-identify as something else, where does that leave the list? And if then the election happened, does that potentially make that particular election null and void because of that challenge? I think that's where we have certain concerns.

I think there is also the issue of capacity to find candidates. Are you saying that if a party wasn't able to find enough female candidates, or candidates who identify as women, for the sake of it, they are not therefore eligible to take part? That's not to say that we would necessarily face that challenge, or the main three or four parties in the Senedd, but smaller parties may find that a challenge. And just to re-emphasise the point—I can't remember which election it was, 2003 or 2007—the Senedd was, I think, 51 per cent women. I don't know if anyone around the room would like to clarify.

So, it has already achieved that. The aim of this Bill is to make it more gender balanced, but it has already achieved that itself organically. I think that's just an important point to make—that it has happened already without prescribing it in law.

The question was mostly around challenges that we face in terms of implementing this. We have a working group that looks at our selection procedures and reviews our standing orders and so on on a regular basis. Over the last 25 years we've taken different types of action to achieve a better mix of diversity in our candidate base, and our candidate lists especially. However, not just in terms of the regional lists, we've also taken action in twinning constituencies. In the last Senedd election, our top 20 constituencies were twinned with each other, so that allowed us to ensure that, if we were to win more constituencies, it wouldn't result in a big change in terms of gender.

So, the challenge to us is less so, I think, because we've got a lot of practice and experience doing these types of actions anyway. There will be some challenges, but, as I previously mentioned, the party's already passed this through its conference. There's a lot of goodwill and support for this type of action, so I can't see, with that goodwill, that there's anything that we can't overcome. I think that's the fundamental point I'd like to raise.

There will be some issues around, if you talk about horizontal balancing, which body inside the party ensures which constituency is to be topped by a woman, which one is topped by an open list. So, that's something we'll have to go through and sort out ourselves. But this is relatively small, admin-type work, which will go through one of our annual conferences, I'm sure, without much trouble.

12:00

I think, in terms of the challenges on this Bill, the equalities Act, and its interaction with law in Wales, similar to what other people have said, finding candidates can be a challenge. I think we've looked at the Bill and what measures we'd need to adhere to, and that enables us to do this work and engage with potential candidates sooner rather than later. I think we view the challenge as maintaining and expanding the equality of the Senedd, not just simply keep going as it is, but expanding that equality to other equality areas.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Y cwestiwn olaf wrthyf i: hynny yw, yn eich barn chi, oes gennych chi ddigon o amser i wneud yn siŵr bod y Bil yma yn digwydd yn eich plaid chi, hynny yw, cyn yr etholiad Senedd nesaf? Diolch.

Thank you very much. My last question: in your opinion, do you have enough time to ensure that this Bill does happen within your party before the next Senedd election? Thank you.

Yr ateb syml yw 'oes'. Dwi'n siŵr y byddem ni'n gallu ei wneud e. Mae yna heriau, fel rŷn ni wedi cyfeirio atyn nhw, fel mae pobl eraill yma wedi cyfeirio atyn nhw—ffeindio’r ymgeiswyr, ffeindio digon o ymgeiswyr. Byddem ni'n wynebu hynny beth bynnag, gyda'r reform Bill arall. Bydd rhaid inni newid ein systemau dewis beth bynnag, so bydd y Bil yma ddim yn rhoi lot mwy o her i ni yn nhermau trefnu dewis ymgeiswyr. So, oes, dwi'n siŵr byddwn ni'n gwneud hyn mewn pryd.

The simple answer is 'yes'. I'm sure we will be able to deliver this. There are challenges, as I've mentioned and others have mentioned, in terms of finding sufficient numbers of candidates. But we would face that challenge in any case as a result of the other reform Bill. We will have to change our selection systems in any case, so this Bill won't pose much more of a challenge to us in terms of selecting candidates. So, yes, I'm sure we will achieve that in time.

The short answer is 'yes’. Ultimately, we will operate with whatever the law is and we will adhere to it. And whatever time and processes need to be put in place, we will, of course, meet them.

Yes, the same answer for us. Admittedly, it will be tight, but we've started those internal preparations already. We began preparations just before conference, looking at what challenges we'd face. So, 'yes' is the short answer.

Can I ask a supplementary question, if I may, Chair? So, one of the things that changed in the other Senedd reform Bill, which is on its way through the Senedd at the moment, is that the prospect of the introduction of Senedd reform has moved back, potentially, to November of 2025 because, effectively, the Government wants the opportunity, should there be an earlier election, to be able to not lose the opportunity for reform for the next election. Wouldn't that give you mega challenges, Jo and Tom and Geraint, in terms of trying to make arrangements for selections on the basis of elections that were then going to be introduced in November 2025 rather than April 2026?

If the timescale is tight already, which is what Jo has just indicated, then, surely, winding the clock back by six months is going to make it a nigh on impossible challenge, is it not?

12:05

I will admit, I haven't heard any intention of bringing it forward six months, but I understand what you're saying, which is what type of—. The question, really, I suppose, that Darren's asking is: what type of timescales will give you problems? If things—. When is the latest date by which you would have to have things in place?

Anybody want to suggest a timescale, or can you all tell me that you will do it no matter what?

The short answer is 'yes'. There is no way we will go to a Senedd election without finding candidates. If you as a Senedd decide, 'This is the timetable', we will work to that timetable, I'm sure. That's certainly our point of view. 

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you all for being here today. So, I'm going to ask some questions now to you all about the candidate selection. So, could you briefly outline to us how your party selects candidates, and the process that currently operates, please? Who would like to go first? Geraint, would you like to go first?

I can go first, yes, I don't mind. We have candidates selected by members, and we have various processes in place before we get to that selection meeting. So, all potential candidates must be members of a national register of candidates. So, this register is maintained at our party head office, and any member can apply to be on that register, and it consists of an interview process, application forms, these types of steps. Once they're on the national register, a constituency can open for nominations, and the information will be sent to all members of the national register and any of them can apply to go for that constituency. Then there's a series of meetings, hustings, in the constituency, historically held face to face, but since COVID, some of them have moved to hybrid or via Zoom. Then members vote on a one member, one vote basis, and the candidate is selected. That's how a constituency selection works. Regional is very similar, but on a regional basis rather than constituency. And where we have taken action to increase diversity, rules are implemented at that point, when members have voted, to ensure that they comply with the views and the rules that the party has set out. 

Broadly very similar. We have a central, approved candidates list that we operate, and in developing that list, we do outreach to try and make that list, of course, as diverse and as representative as possible. And then, as and when selections begin, we sort of start the firing pistol. We open up the selections, and, very similar to other parties, we will advertise a constituency and people will be invited to apply. 

What we have done in the past—we haven't done it at every election—is we will also have processes whereby candidates have a grading, and whether they can apply for certain levels of seats, with a view to perhaps developing candidates if they're very new, to perhaps develop them for future elections. And then that broadly covers our constituency selection process. And, again, we previously did them face to face, but, of course, the pandemic forced us to move online and, actually, we very much operate in a hybrid fashion now. Doing things online, whilst not ideal sometimes, can actually get things done a bit quicker. 

And then with regard to our regional lists, again, we open up a region and invite members of that approved list to apply. We then conduct a postal ballot of members within that region to rank the candidates—one, two, however many. And, yes, again, it's very much, to be on that approved list, you need to be a member of the Conservative Party, and members who are eligible to vote are those who've been a member for at least three months. 

So, we have our national panel of candidates selected by the Welsh executive committee. Before we go into the national candidate programme, there's a future candidate programme, there's training available. That training is often specifically targeted at under-represented groups. And then local parties will shortlist, and then members will vote. We do have equality measures in place, such as gender-balanced shortlists and ensuring there is at least one black, Asian, minority ethnic candidate on shortlists. I think, similar to everyone else, we have hustings where members vote. Those are generally in person. We do do occasional online hustings, but generally they are in person. And on regional lists, where we're able to, we do zip on gender as well.

12:10

Before time moves on, can I ask this question, then? The proposed reform, which is not this Bill, it's the other Bill, now introduces 16 constituencies, basically 16 mini regions. As you've all highlighted, you've done a regional list selection before. Does the introduction of 16 regions make it more complicated and more time-consuming for the parties in their selection process? I've been selected in a constituency, so I know how our constituency works, but you're going into a bigger collective group now, and you've done regions yourselves. Is 16 regions going to make it more time-consuming for the parties?

I think we'll have to see, to be honest. In some ways, I think it could be quicker, because at the moment we currently have to have 40 candidates, plus the regional lists, so there have actually been a fewer number of selection meetings. There's one view of looking at it saying it could be quicker. However, as Plaid Cymru, along with most other political parties, is run predominantly on a voluntary basis, which means that the people running the selection procedures themselves are volunteers at the local level, we would have to train up those people in order to run the process, and they of course have got a lot of experience running the current process in their constituencies. The first-past-the-post system has been around for a long time, so there's a lot of experience with that system. We would have to ensure that we have the correct skill set in our constituency secretaries and so on. I don't think we'll be able to give a definitive answer until we actually do it. That's the honest answer.

Okay. Thank you. I want to ask the others, because I think it's probably going to be similar for everyone.

Broadly, yes. I think we face a similar challenge in terms of that our volunteers very much take a bit of a lead on, perhaps, constituency selections, whereas the regional selections, at least in our party, are very much led on by the professional party. Going forward, if the legislation goes through, we'll be looking at 16, as you say, rankings. That would very much need to be led on by the professional team in each of them, at least from our point of view. So, it would put more of a burden on staff, and I think it might pose challenges to volunteers. At the moment, a constituency selection is broadly quite simple and can be undertaken by, still, volunteers. I think if we're getting to a point where we're doing large postal ballots and checking of members, I think that would probably then fall to the professional party, putting more pressure on them.

I think for us it doesn't change the general principles around selections, and I think it could end up being slightly quicker with fewer constituencies. I think the challenge that I would highlight is that we do prefer to have meetings in person, and I think for some of the larger or more rural of the 16 constituencies, it might be more of a challenge for them to meet in person, so we've had to look at ensuring that the online process can work within our rules and processes within that as well. So, that's one of the challenges I'd highlight to the 16, but generally it would be quicker, and I don't think it changes the principles around selections.

Thank you very much. Could you each outline your view on whether the system proposed by the Bill is appropriate and how it compares with the zipping approach recommended by the special purpose committee? I'll come to you first this time, Tom.

Sorry, could you just repeat that one again? Sorry.

Yes, of course. What is your view on whether the system proposed by the Bill is appropriate and how it compares with the zipping approach recommended by the special purpose committee?

I mean, ultimately, I think I'd go back to my original point. I think there are going to be challenges for it, not least, like I said, the identification and self-identification of women. I think the point is it's how that is going to be implemented by us. I think we're going to have certain challenges in terms of the data that we hold, and that someone who may have identified but may not want to have that known, and I think there are a lot of data protection issues here that are going to pose a challenge for us.

I think what you've proposed in this Bill is potentially better than what was originally proposed in the zipping system. I think that we—. Plaid Cymru have tried a number of different approaches over the years where we have done zipping of different types, depending on—. The top must be female, or top must be the person that gets the most votes, or the—. We've tried lots of different things. What I think you're looking at here is the Bill sets out to achieve diversity, and by zipping, and keeping places for men, I don't think that's what the Bill's trying to do. The Bill, from what I understand, is trying to achieve diversity and equality between females—women—and men. And therefore, the way to do that is to look at the under-represented group, which is women, and therefore take action to promote that group, rather than promote the group that is in a majority. I think it would be strange to do it the other way. So, overall, I think it's going down the right route and I think what's in the Bill is better than what was proposed under the original zipping system going back four or five years ago, whenever it was.

12:15

Yes. I think, overall, there are obviously challenges in any new system, particularly where it is a change, but what I would say is that we are working hard now to find candidates, to encourage them to come forward. We're working with our equalities groups to encourage them to support us in finding those candidates. So, we're doing that sort of work now and I think we are supportive of the Bill.

Thank you. And then, there is also, in the Bill, the sanctions for non-compliance with quotas. So—. Well—. Sorry, your views on sanctions in the Bill for non-compliance with the quotas. Can you outline how your political party would manage any potential reordering of candidate lists that may be required as a result of the horizontal placement criteria? Geraint, can I come to you first?

I'd like to give you a straight answer; the honest truth is that we're still writing our standing orders and our procedures around this now. So, I don't feel that I really can answer that. I'm sure we will find a way to do it. It will be a democratic body inside the party that decides that. Where that decision is made, we haven't decided yet. And I think a lot will depend on the progress of this Bill, and that we will write our procedures and our standing orders in light of what you decide, rather than what we think might occur, so—. Sorry, I can't give you a straight answer on that.

Broadly the same. We're still drafting our rules at the moment and I think we won't, of course, finalise our rules entirely until the legislation is—if it does—passed. 

Very similar to what everyone else has already said; I think we need to see the final legislation before we can finalise our procedures. We're in the middle of drafting those for various sort of options that we can think of, but we would need to see exactly what the law would require us to do, and, hopefully, we would be able to draft our rules to be within those laws without needing to, hopefully, be reordered or sanctioned.

Thank you very much. And I'm just going to come on now to ask you some questions about what your political parties are already doing before we even look at this Bill. So, could you just talk to us about how you are encouraging more women to come forward and stand to be candidates, but also how you are trying to generally increase diversity in the candidates that you put forward for the Senedd, including any training opportunities that you currently provide? Tom, can I come to you first this time?

Yes, certainly. We have various outreach groups who are tasked with, as the name suggests, reaching out to communities, under-represented groups, women, all—. We have, as I say, various outreach groups who are there to encourage them to put themselves forward as candidates, but, crucially, then, speak to them to understand why they may not be putting themselves forward as candidates. It's all well and good going out to a group and saying, 'You need to put yourself forward as a candidate for the Conservative Party', but we, you know—. If they're not, we need to understand why. And I think those groups are out there to go to these groups and—. Sorry, to speak to the people we're looking to try and encourage to stand and understand why they are reluctant, and, then, try and take all the measures necessary to accommodate that.

We, just to note, have had success in terms of this. We look at Monmouthshire council going up to the 2022 elections, where we went into that, I think, with at least 50 per cent of our candidates women, and that wasn't done through rules, that was done through the efforts of people locally who were able to go out and speak to these communities and encourage more people to put their names forward and actually understand why they may not have done so in the past.

12:20

Thanks very much. So, we're already doing some work on this. We're working with our women's committee who are doing work with BAME women, LGBT women to encourage them to come forward. Now, we're doing expressions of interest so that we can see who is interested in coming forward and what support they might need. We're also working with our BAME committee, and they're doing work on what the barriers are, what the perceptions are and what people are concerned about before standing so that we can shape training and support around what those concerns are. We've also been working across the Labour movement with trade unions and socialist societies affiliated with the Labour Party as well to encourage their members to stand or express an interest and engage in the process, because the more engagement in the process that we get earlier on, it allows us to shape those training and support packages to encourage under-represented groups to come forward. So, that's what we're doing at the moment, but that will grow and diversify as we move forward. 

We're doing similar, and slightly different as well. We have a director of equalities on our national executive whose job is to oversee equality in the party and ensure that we do take action in this manner. We have the different sections of the party, interest groups, including a women's section, a BAME section and so on. We work with those to try and encourage their members to stand. As well as that, we take a softer approach, with some form of mentoring, formal and informal. What I would say is that where we find it most effective is where that informal approach works side by side with some form of formal mechanism. So, we can see that, where we have internal rules to ensure that women have certain places on lists or certain positions, then we find that women are more willing to stand. Where they think that it's just the same old as usual, they're less likely to put their names forward, even if that soft approach is made as well. So, I think the two things work very strongly together. On their own, they're still worth doing, but together they're very effective, we've found. 

Thank you very much. And just my very last question, which is very quick: Welsh Labour submitted written evidence and said that they would be willing to publish their diversity and inclusion strategy once it's finalised. Is this something that both of your parties would be willing to do as well?

I believe we already have done so, as far as the UK Conservative Party goes. But, yes, absolutely. 

I know that Plaid Cymru is writing a diversity strategy at the moment, under the auspices of our director of equalities, so I'm sure that, when that is finalised, it will be published. 

Heledd, do you want to add any supplementaries? No. Before I go on to Darren, you talked about publishing diversity strategies. One of the questions that has been raised with us is data collection and data on diversity. I'm not asking about publishing it, but do you collect that data on your candidates? Do you have the information, which could be used to demonstrate how you actually are delivering diversity? Just a simple 'yes' or 'no', are you able to? If we said, in the Bill, that you are—. Because section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 says you should be publishing it; if that happened, could you do it? Are you collecting that data? So, I'll go through each of you in turn. Tom. 

Yes. In 2021, we did collect that data on candidates. 

Some, partially, yes, in terms of some aspects of diversity data; other aspects I think we would have to relook at our GDPR policy and adopt that. But, in theory, no problem. 

Yes, we do, but it would be anonymised and we'd want it to be as general as possible so that any individual couldn't be identified from their equalities data.

Gaf i ofyn, ydych chi'n defnyddio'r wybodaeth yna, oherwydd mae'n un peth i'w gasglu, ond ym mha ffordd wedyn mae hynna yn creu newidiadau o ran unrhyw strategaeth ac ati? Oherwydd, yn amlwg, rydyn ni wedi gweld mewn etholiadau yn y gorffennol fod yna dangynrychiolaeth o fenywod fel ymgeisyddion. Felly, oes yna unrhyw gamau gweithredu wedi'u cymryd yn sgil y data hwnnw, neu ydy o jest yn rhywbeth rydych chi'n edrych arno fo yng nghyd-destun y Bil hwn? Efallai os fedraf i ddod at Jo yn gyntaf.

Could I ask whether you use that information, because it's one thing to gather the data, but then how does that actually lead to changes in terms of any strategies and so on? Because, clearly, we've seen in past elections that there is under-representation of women as candidates. So, are there any action points that have emerged from that data, or is it just something that you're looking at in the context of this Bill? So, perhaps I could go to Jo first. 

Thank you. So, yes, we do; we do collect the data and we do act upon it. So, when we've collected that data, what we do is that we look, for example, at where we've had a lack of female candidates coming forward. We'll see what we can put in place to encourage women to come forward in that particular area, what support we can offer and what we can do to learn from it. And after each of our selection processes are finally finished, we have a debrief with people who were successful or unsuccessful about their experiences, and that then informs future selection processes so that we're constantly learning and evolving about what those barriers are and we can make those adjustments to the internal processes to encourage as much diversity as possible.

12:25

Thank you. Yes, absolutely. So, obviously, like I said, we collected some of that data in 2021. Our aim then was to build up an approved candidates list, as I've talked about, that was as diverse as possible. But, ultimately, the selection of candidates we very much leave up to the membership; we don't prescribe to them. We obviously say that they should always strive to select a wide selection of candidates, but, ultimately, the members cast their votes from the pool that we give them. We strive to give those members the largest pool of possible candidates to choose from.

Felly, ar hap fyddai unrhyw beth yn digwydd—does yna ddim dysgu. Os ydych chi'n bryderus does yna ddim digon, dywedwch, o ferched neu unrhyw grŵp arall sydd wedi ei dangynrychioli, does yna ddim unrhyw fath o newidiadau yn cael eu gwneud yn sgil y data hwnnw?

Therefore, anything would happen by chance, essentially. If you are concerned that there aren't enough women, or any other under-represented group, there are no sort of changes made as a result of the data that you hold?

The data is used in terms of, we would then outreach to them after the election, and obviously we saw what the results were, so we would then say to some of the group, 'Look, what were the challenges you faced? Why, if you felt that you weren't able to—? You know, you didn't get selected, well, why didn't you get selected?' And then we feed that back to those outreach groups that I've talked about to say, 'Look, these are some of the concerns raised. This is what we need to address in the future.'

Ar un lefel eithaf syml, dŷn ni yn defnyddio'r data yna er mwyn sicrhau bod gennym fenywod yn y llefydd ar y rhestrau sydd wedi eu cadw ar gyfer menywod. So, ar y lefel yna, yn bendant. Ar ôl etholiad y Senedd cyn diweddaf, wnaethom ni sylwi fod yna ddiffyg menywod oedd yn sefyll yn y seddi ymylol, ble roedden ni'n gobeithio gwneud yn well. So, ar ôl dadansoddi'r data yna, fe wnaethom ni fynd drwy, a dechrau, proses o efeillio 20 etholaeth ar gyfer etholiad y Senedd ddiwethaf. So, mae hwnna'n enghraifft o sut dŷn ni'n defnyddio’r data. Dwi'n meddwl mai beth fydd yn dod mas o'r strategaeth sy'n cael ei hysgrifennu ar hyn o bryd ydy sut y gallwn ddefnyddio'r data mewn ffordd mwy dwfn a mwy clyfar go iawn. Ond dŷn ni yn y broses o ysgrifennu hwnna nawr, so, gobeithio, byddwn yn gweld hwnna'n datblygu dros y chwe mis nesaf.

On one simple level, we do use that data in order to ensure that we have women in the places on the lists that are reserved for women. So, at that level, certainly, yes. After the election of the Senedd before last, we noticed that there was a lack of women standing in the marginal seats, where we were hoping to do better. So, after data analysys, we went through, and started, a process of twinning 20 constituencies for the following Senedd election. So, that is an example of how we use the data. I think what will emerge from the strategy that's being written now is how we can use the data in a smarter way. But we're in the process of writing that now, so, hopefully, that will be developed over the next six months.

Yes. Can I just turn to the matter of costs and preparation for the introduction of any changes that might be introduced as a result of this Bill? So, obviously, we know that each of the political parties has done work on trying to promote diversity, but we’ve heard evidence from various organisations, in both written and oral evidence, that some of the barriers that are faced by women and others with protected characteristics can be financial: things like transport costs, childcare costs, work—income forgone as a result of people taking time out to campaign on the campaign trail—et cetera. To what extent does your party help with costs like that, and, if it doesn’t, do you think it would be useful for there to be some funding available in some way?

There’s no provision in the explanatory memorandum at the moment for this Bill for those sorts of costs to be supported, but we do know that the Welsh Government did put money aside, and still does, to support people with disabilities to come forward for election, particularly at local election campaign time. So, I don’t know who wants to sta